Lunch is my favorite time of the day. It’s a modern day equivalent of recess, and I’m fortunate enough to get a whole hour where I’m as free as a bird. Often times I forget that I have a whole second half of the day left, a crushing reality that only four more hours of workplace drudgery can bring. I do whatever I can to unwind and relax myself in the 45 minutes I spend each day not actually eating food. I tried to barter a half hour sustenance break for an earlier departure time, but my manager ignored both my first and follow up email (My in person Hail Mary attempt also fell incomplete). Since packing a lunch and never leaving the building is downright depressing, I go out to lunch pretty much every day. Through examining my own habits and observing other workplace drones on my lunch hour, I’ve come up with some rules of lunchtime personal and professional etiquette.
1. Don’t get an appetizer. They’re all just bread and grease, and every single one of them will run up your bill an extra nine bucks. That’s three gallons of gas, a double margarita, or a chipotle burrito WITH an extra scoop of chicken; it’s not worth it.
2. If you got an appetizer, don’t burn your tongue. I’m not a heat transfer expert, but fried food fresh out of the greaser is hot. If you’re like the rest of America (including me) and completely ignored rule number one, grab your mozzarella sticks and count to five. If they burn your fingers, they’ll burn your tongue.
3. Try to avoid finger food. Obviously this eliminates almost all of my favorite choices, but even after a thorough hand washing, a little chicken wing smudge can ruin your next TPS report’s cover page.
4. Don’t drip on your shirt. For the love of God, go easy on the mayo, ketchup, and dipping sauces. It’s really hard not to judge someone who just dripped, and even harder to play it cool if you’re the dripper. Plus you might have just ruined a shirt if your spot removal skills aren’t up to snuff.
5. Choose your cuisine carefully. I love food from all over the world, but I still have to sit in a confined space and bang out reports all day after I eat lunch. The last thing I need is any pronounced burping, gasses, or worse while I’m carefully wording production emails about how busy I am to my superior. Keep your choices to north of the American border and west of the Berlin Wall.
6. Do not hit on your server. I dated a waitress in high school, so thankfully I learned that one early on. She is at work, it is her job to be nice to you, and she doesn’t like you. If she really wants you to have her number, she’ll give it to you. No need to make things awkward just because you have a receipt and a pen in your hands.
7. Tip your server well. Don’t be a cheapskate. If you can afford an appetizer, you can afford a tip. My personal habit is 10 percent plus two bucks. If you tip seven bucks on a fifty dollar tabs and three bucks on ten dollar tabs, your karma should even out eventually.
8. No soda. Switching to water for life will save you both money and inches on your waist. Every calorie counts.
9. Beer is fine Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. Alcohol with lunch after a productive morning is awesome. Don’t forget that Listerine strips still exist and maybe even throw in some eye drops to be even safer around your nosy coworkers.
10. Coworkers. Maybe you go to lunch with your coworkers. Maybe you don’t. Do you go because you guys are actually friends, or are you going because you don’t want to eat alone? I get big enough doses of my coworkers during the eight hours I already have to spend at work. Lunchtime is me time.
11. Leave leftovers in your car. Normally I’d say leave it in the refrigerator, but the communal office fridge in our break room hasn’t been cleaned since I started work at my company. I don’t really care what you do with your leftovers as long as you don’t store them at your desk. If I have to smell your half eaten chimichanga all afternoon, I’m going to be furious.
12. Lunch dates are solid. If you and a lady friend work in the same office park or within a 10-minute drive, meeting up for lunch can easily be the highlight of your day. Wear a suit and complain that you’ve been “putting out fires all morning.” They’ll be all over it.
13. Do NOT ask a coworker to lunch as a date. That’s like dating a girl in the dorms and taking her to the dining hall. She probably has already Friend Zoned you anyways, so I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you.
14. Invite your boss to lunch once a month. Offer to pay and pick somewhere one step up from Five Guys or Chipotle. If you’re really smooth, ask him penetrating questions about what his early career was like and I guarantee you playing to his ego will result in them picking up the check. If I had employees, I’d have the company pay for every lunchtime “meeting” I could possibly schedule.
15. Don’t schedule meetings right before or after lunch. A large majority of my job is setting up production review meetings whenever the higher ups are in town. People get pissy real fast when 11am meetings run long and half of them show up late to 1 p.m. meetings anyways. Save yourself the hassle.
16. Show up early for post-lunch meetings. I once walked in to a one o’clock meeting with 30 seconds to spare holding a subway cup, and my boss sternly warned me never to be late to a meeting on account of food. Copy that.
17. Do whatever you have to do to get through the rest of the day. Take a nap, watch a TV show on your phone, read a book, or even knock out a quick workout. With the second half of your day about to start, this is where you really have to dig deep and suck it up before you get to go to happy hour. If you didn’t break rule number one, you can get that enormous margarita guilt free!.