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Eating Out: Getting What You Pay For

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The food business is obviously a good one to be in, in this new millennium. Restaurants are thriving across the country and even in conservative metros like Chennai, where even ten years ago home-cooked dinner ending with curd rice was the staple diet, diners in droves are seeking culinary frontiers like Mexican, Italian, or Chettinad or Dhaba food. What leads to a good dining experience? Today’s diners are looking for a chance to relax after a hard day at work. Eating out at dinnertime means not having to bother with the menu at home – the leftovers in the fridge, or the lack of ingredients! How can you get the most out of the time you spend in a restaurant?

Here are some suggestions:

· Ensure that the ambience permits stress free communication. While it is not necessary that every meal you share together should be taken up with heart-to-heart conversation, it is nice to use the freedom from cooking and serving to be used in cementing your relationship. If you eat very often in a noisy, crowded, hurried atmosphere, you are only repeating the stressful patterns of the day, and creating little genuine companionship.

· Make sure that you eat for pure health reasons every once in a while. Eating out should not become an excuse for total indulgence. Alternate cuisine and menus. Try eating only salads or low cal foods every week. Splash out on heavy desserts only if you have been more careful in the prior few days. Searching for and remembering restaurants that use less oil and spices, that have a profusion of healthy vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes keeps you on the track of good health.

· The price has to be right if you are going to feel good even a week after your dinner. Reaching for your credit card every time you eat out may be shown as the stylish thing to do in the ads on TV, but in actual fact, if each dish you eat in a restaurant goes into three figures, it leaves you feeling a little sick at the end of it, or as if you are biting into actual cash! Look for places where the food is wholesome without costing you your weekly wage packet.

· Some restaurants are attractive because they are providing a unique feature – either special activities or space for children, or additional entertainment that is fun, or soothing, or interesting. Indulging in a meal at these can be better than at other places, but too steady a diet of this can also produce its own passivity-dependence culture that we are too used to anyway, with our computer and TV routines. Reserve these as special treats, specially for children.

· Spread some joy. If you like the service, food or entertainment at a restaurant, do remember to express this appreciation. Simple gestures of thanks ensure that you get treated like a VIP on your next visit. On the other hand, loud arguments, (even if you are in the right) do not help to win you much co-operation! Try to think of the restaurant experience as an exercise in how pleasant you can make life, not as an avenue to assert your every frustration.

Ultimately, its up to us to add value to every time we eat at a restaurant. Good luck!

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