The Dinner Meeting: We’re not treating!

Q: I am planning a dinner meeting the evening prior to a day-long board meeting. The dinner meeting is set up so that each individual pays for their own meal. It has been done in the past but is not yet an established tradition. How do I indicate these details in the agendas and e-mail notifications so that it does not appear rude, but is also clearly understood?

A: You probably need to list the dinner as a no host dinner at x restaurant at whatever time you set. You will need to ask for responses so you know how many reservations to make, however. You are really not inviting guests, therefore, but rather announcing the dinner for those who wish to attend, with you as the coordinator.


  1. Gertrude

    This seems a little odd… Is this a work-related meeting? If you are requiring people to attend, I feel like you can’t require them to pay for themselves. Personally, I am on an EXTREMELY tight budget, and therefore I cannot afford to eat out. When I say this, I don’t mean that I can’t afford a $100 dinner. I mean I cannot afford a $5 bowl of soup, because I budget really tightly. It is a system that works for me. If I was told I needed to go to a meeting for work but I also needed to pay for my own dish, I would be irked. I’d do it, because in the end, it’s required as part of my job, but it would rub me the wrong way.

  2. This is indeed a very odd way of having a dinner meeting after work. There ought to be a better solution than forcing co-workers each to pay their meal. Such a tradition better not gets established! You don’t indicate at what level, executive or what, and at what type of restaurant this is referring to.
    We ALL should respect the downward economy we’re in and act accordingly to that and not burden others unnecessarily.
    Mariette’s Back to Basics

  3. Kate

    I strongly agree with the previous comments especially since your company can claim the receipt as a tax deduction. Personally, if this were asked of me… I’d question the integrity of the company I worked for… in this day and age, it’s just not a realistic expectation.

  4. Alicia

    I’d question the fiscal health of any company that did this. This would have smart employees looking for a new job expecting if they could not afford dinner that the company could not afford employees either. Either have the meeting during the workday when food is not part of it or pay for the meal.

  5. K.

    I agree with all comments that this seems, at the very least, strange.

    On a new topic: While on the job search, I applied for a very specific position with a company and underwent a phone interview with one person over two months ago. I have since received, not only an email from the woman with whom I interviewed a few weeks later (and to which I responded along the lines of “Thank you for your time, good luck with your new hire”) but now I’m on four additional emails from other individuals within the company letting me know again and again “You have not been selected to move forward at this time for this position.” It literally seems like every couple weeks someone else from their company is writing me to rub salt in the wound.

    Is this a new trend in ways of doing business or is this company just that seriously out of touch with one another? My gut is that it is in my best professional interest to simply ignore all of these additional emails. But should I instead be responding and letting each person know that the message has been received?

    • Jody

      It sounds to me like each person isn’t aware that somebody has already responded. If you’d like to work with this company if another position opens up, it might be a nice idea to respond saying that you’d already heard that information from Ms X (your initial contact) but that you’d be interested in another position should one open up. Otherwise I see no harm in ignoring the e-mails.

    • Vanna Keiler

      Hi K. I would venture to guess it was a mistake if you are getting automated responses throughout the company hierarchy (e.g. manager, supervisor, recruiting junior, recruiting senior). The company should definitely take strides to streamline their email responses.

  6. Vanna Keiler

    I also agree with all the responses posted above. Furthermore, it appears the EPI response also categorized this meeting as “non-mandatory”, since individuals would be asked to pay for their own meals.

    I think the best thing this organizer can do in the future is get a general consensus first regarding the chosen venue and if it is acceptable by all to attend and pay for themselves. Otherwise, it seems rather heavy-handed to enforce attendance.

  7. Laura

    The question did not specify if this was actually a work meeting or perhaps a nonprofit board meeting. Most nonprofit boards are made up entirely of volunteers with strong ties to the community. Finding time to meet may be difficult and the expense would probably be better spent on the cause as opposed to a board dinner so having the board pay would make sense.
    Options – change the venue to somewhere less formal such as a meeting room and have everyone bring their own dinner opt to participate in ordering-in or don’t call a meeting during dinner hours. If the meeting is optional then it would be easier to politely decline for those not wanting to pay their way than if it is also mandatory. Another option – put this on the agenda for the all-day meeting so that you make it clear once and for all how to handle future dinners.

  8. Jody

    I just thought of one more suggestion. If you do proceed with a “no host” dinner, it will be easier if the restaurant will issue separate checks — and you can let people know about the separate checks ahead of time. That avoids hurt feelings where somebody feels like he contributed more than his share because somebody else didn’t contribute enough.

  9. Ruth Peltier

    The way I read the original question is the the dinner meeting is the day BEFORE the actual event. As such, I would assume that attendance would not be required.

  10. John James

    When staying with friends or relatives while on vacation, who should pay for dinner out at a restaurant? –the visitor? or the host?
    There seems to be two schools of thought:
    1) The host says, “I’m so glad you came all this way to visit me. I would love to buy you dinner at my favorite home town restaurant.”
    2) Or the visitor says, “You’ve been so nice to let me stay at your house. I would like to buy you dinner.”
    Would the tie-breaker be whether the guest was invited to visit by the host,…versus the guest calling and saying they would like to come and visit on vacation?
    Thank you.

    • Elizabeth

      There is no hard and fast rule. No one is obligated to treat for dinners out. A lot has to do with the nature of the invitation and the nature of the visit. Young people visiting older relatives versus friends visiting friends. Groups can decide to go Dutch, they can take turns treating, the possibilities are endless. If I were visiting someone and they were providing all the food at home, I would definitely treat them for dinner at least once if not more. If I had family visiting from overseas whose travel budget was largely taken up by the ticket, I would also treat them. It really just depends.

    • Jody

      If the guest invites himself to visit, I think he should definitely take the host out for dinner (or at least offer to do so). A nice alternative would be to bring in ingredients (or even take-out) and make dinner for the hosts — making sure to do all the cleanup as well.

      If the host invites the guest to stay, it would be a nice gesture for the guest to take the host out (or offer to do so) but I don’t think it’s such a requirement.

  11. Susan

    I have been invited to a dinner that friends bought at a charity auction to be hosted at another couple’s home. What is the etiquette for hostess gifts in this situation? Do you bring a gift for the couple who is hosting or the couple who purchased the dinner at the charity event? Or both? And what sort of gifts would be appropriate for each?
    Thanks for your input!

    • Elizabeth

      In this case, I do not think a hostess gift is appropriate in either case. The home-owners are not exactly hosting “you,” so much as they are doing something for a charity they believe in. Your friends who invited you are the hosts, but then it seems odd to bring them a bottle of wine or a plant when you are not actually going to their house. In this case, I would send a lovely thank you note, or perhaps some flowers the following day, as a way of thanking them. The most traditional mode of thanks is, of course, reciprocation – not that it has to be exact, but you could invite these friends to your house for dinner in a few weeks, for example.

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