Breaking out of an eating out rut – restaurant challenge

When you’re a parent, especially a mum, life tends to change however much you try to maintain your old lifestyle.

Pre-N, I would go dancing 3 to 4 nights a week, going away dancing 2 or 3 weekends a year, and always intended to go back to dancing, if only once a week, or for freestyle sessions.  But it’s not happened (not helped by most of my dancing friends stopping or moving to other dance styles), so I’ve not got the pull to go.

We don’t often go out – me to NCT committee meetings because I do our branch’s website and social media at the moment, occasional meals and socials with work and  NCT friends. Then with ‘farming’ friends as a couple, we sometimes go out for meals…for birthdays and ‘we’ve not been out for a while’ occasions.

We’re always a bit samey with the places we go to.  In town, it’s always the same restaurants (it’s fairly limited in choice where we live anyway which doesn’t help), and out of town, we all have our favourites or convenient places that we go to.

I know we’re not the only ones, but it is really hard to break out of ruts.  Especially if you’ve got fussy people eating with you (I’m not keen on fish, OH needs good steak on the menu, and there’s always someone who doesn’t like xy and z type of food).

try a restaurant challenge

If you want to try and break out of the cycle, maybe a restaurant challenge is the answer.  A friend knew someone who was trying this, that each time they ate out they had to go somewhere new.  I’d imagine that living in a large city would help with that challenge, but it’s worth giving it a go wherever you live.  I’m trying it and so far it’s going down well, although we’re only 2 restaurants in.

Here’s  my guide to starting a restaurant challenge:

  • It can be a group challenge or individuals.  Going as a couple could be a great talking point for date night, as a group you get to rotate who chooses each time so potentially get to experience more new places.
  • Set dates specifically for the challenge.  These are special occasions.  In between you can go to your normal family restaurant or date night meal if you want, but if you’re setting the challenge to do a different one each month, then that’s the official challenge.
  • If you’re going as a group, have a set group of people.  Think about the size of most restaurants near you, frequency of eating out, price range.  You don’t want to alienate people by choosing extortionately priced eateries, and you also don’t want massive groups where you can’t talk altogether round the table.
  • Agree up front if you’re going to score places and what the criteria are.  Scoring makes it sound really formal, but it’s a fun topic of conversation at the end of the night and if you want to return to a good restaurant another time, then you’ll not always remember which places you loved for what after eating out in 20 different places.

Examples of criteria I’ve used includes:

  • Food – for each course
  • Décor, setting
  • Ambience (atmosphere, because it can be quite different to décor, it’s much more about the feeling of a place)
  • Customer service – bar and waitressing, hosting, dealing with any issues
  • Price or value

Rather than ending up with a total score which you can’t necessarily compare, if every person marks each criteria out of 10, tot up the total and then average them, you can compare each place in turn.  Smart phones make it so easy to do it on the spot.

I’m not sure my restaurant challenge is going to help my diet, but it’s definitely proving fun and introducing me to new places locally.  Maybe, if I can take some photos of meals and restaurants without embarrassing the people I’m with, I might write up some reviews for the blog.

If you do anything similar when you eat out, do let me know.  I’d love to compare notes.

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