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While traveling with a group, your team will have at least a few meals together. Especially if you are the newest person on the team, you may get tasked with the responsibility of figuring out where everyone will eat. When looking at the dozens of restaurants to choose from, consider these tips while planning your team dinner.
Inquire about dietary restrictions
Double-check with your team to see if there are any dietary restrictions. Vegetarian, gluten-free, Paleo – while some people view these as limitations, dietary restriction will help you narrow down your options.
Do try to be considerate of these restrictions. Yes, a vegetarian person can eat salads, but if a restaurant doesn’t offer any vegetarian entrees, then BBQ may not be your best pick. Especially if you have dietary restrictions in the group, put yourself in their shoes and actually check the menu to ensure the individual has at least 2-3 options.
Consider the price range
The best thing about traveling for work and eating with the team is that you can expense your meals. You will spend more money on the road than you typically would at home. However, you don’t want to be eating at three-dollars-sign restaurants every night.
For a team lunch, unless there is a special occasion, I would pick a fast casual restaurant. You want your meal to be under $20, and you want to be back at work within an hour. Fast casual restaurants are shops where you order your meal at the counter and then sit down. If you can’t tell if a restaurant is fast casual by the website, try to find pictures of the inside of the restaurant. Look for photos of a cash register or giant menu on a wall – these are signs of a fast casual restaurant.
For planning a team dinner, your team members will be open to having a longer meal. Dinners will typically take place at a sit down restaurant, so check to see if you need to make a reservation. For a regular evening, I would select a restaurant where the entrees will cost $10-$20. If it is a more formal team dinner or you only have a team dinner once a week, $20-$30 per entree can be appropriate.
Check the location
Unless there are literally no restaurants in town, your team is not going to want to drive 30 minutes to and from dinner. Check Google Maps, and aim for a restaurant within a 15 minute radius. The closer to your hotel, the better. Everyone will be exhausted at the end of the day, and after dinner they will be excited for a quick journey to bed.
If your team is local, then consider a restaurant as close to the client site or office as possible. If everyone is going to the team dinner directly after work, your team members will be hungry and will not want to travel far from their typical routes home. You can find variety of reasons to check out different restaurants.
If there is a really good restaurant that your team should absolutely try, there can definitely be exceptions to the 15 minute rule. Check with your team early on in the week, and see which day they would be open to a longer or more unique dinner.
Ensure the restaurant has good ratings
Yelp.com is my favorite spot and website for finding food, and is the most common restaurant finder for consultants. Yelp will have crowd-sourced reviews and photos from nearly every restaurant near you.
For a successful team dinner, do not take your team to a restaurant with less than 3.5 stars unless it is literally the only option. Aim for 4 or 4.5 star restaurants, and your team will not be disappointed.
Find something unique
Avoid picking a chain restaurant, or something that you can get back at home. For example, if you are in New Orleans, there is plenty of Cajun and Creole cuisine, so get ready for some real spice to hit your mouth. If you visit Philadelphia. you might want to get a Philadelphia cheesesteak. Figure out what local dishes are available, and you will give your team members a worthwhile evening.
With these tips in mind, you are sure to find a restaurant that will pass your team’s expectations. Good luck with your team dinner, and enjoy the food and good conversation!