Your stomach is rumbling. Your thoughts are muddled. You've left deciding on where to eat to the very last moment and your body is telling you to pick an option now or else.
We've all been there. Sometimes it's you who is having a hard time choosing a restaurant; sometimes it's your partner or friend. When you regularly eat out in a group, finding consensus on who wants to eat what, where and when can be fraught with difficulties. Fights can ensue. Relationships can be tested.
The problem, according to psychologists, is that many things probably sound pretty good to you and your fellow diners. There are hundreds of things you like to eat, but do you want to eat them right now? Ultimately, this is a common, fundamental decision-making problem that's causing you grief.
The first sign you've got a problem is when those hunger emotions come into play. Sometimes it seems like it will be the end of the world if you don't get the perfect food in your mouth immediately. Now multiply that feeling amongst a group of people, and you have a recipe for rational decision-making disaster.
Deadlines can make your brain do some funny things, too. Stress levels invariably go up when you realize your window for dinner may be closing, and you need to make a decision fast. The longer you argue, the more stressful the situation becomes, which contributes to even more inadequate decision making. At this rate, you'll probably consider throwing in the towel and opt for junk food instead.
So, before that happens, follow these basic decision-making guidelines to choosing a great place to eat, every time:
- Take it in turns. If you have a regular weekly dinner date that you argue about regularly, why not choose alternate group leaders. One week you get to choose your favourite meal or restaurant, and next week it's someone else's turn. This option works best when you each write out a list of your favourite places or cuisines (and ones you don't like), so no one gets stuck eating food they can't swallow.
- Opt for variety. If you really want to be diplomatic, compile a list of favourite eating spots that have a varied menu. That way, everyone can choose a meal they'll love.
- Where do the locals go? When you're searching for somewhere to eat in a new suburb or town, try working out where the locals are eating. If in doubt, ask a shopkeeper where the hotspots are.
- Follow the crowd. If you're opting for a multicultural night out, eating somewhere that's full of indigenous diners is always a good bet you're getting an authentic experience.
- Go online. The web is a cornucopia of foodie reviews, whether they're from social media influencers or apps like Urban Spoon.
You can usually see a copy of the menu and a few snapshots of the ambience along with peer reviews.
Choosing a great place to eat doesn't need to be a bun fight. Make your next night out more pleasurable by calmly working through these steps one by one. And, if you're still having problems, eat a small, tasty snack to get your decision-making processes back into gear before trying again.