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Does food taste better when someone else pays?

I'm just wondering what other hounds think. My one friend keeps raving about this mediocre Italian restaurant. I'm trying to be kind, patient and understanding. It's not my job to burst his bubble. But in the back of my mind I'm thinking, yeah if your parents didn't pick up the tab most of the time, and you had to pay for the meal yourself, you would probably be a lot more picky.

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  1. Take this friend out to one of your really good restaurants, and pay. You'll find out soon enough if all they care about is the free meal. To answer the question, no, the food doesn't taste better. It tastes free, which is to say, free and good and are two separate inputs.

    Ask anyone wo has eaten half their meals on someone else's expense account, or anyone who has expensed many meals.

    1. Depends. If the food's not good, it's just not good. Sometimes I feel embarrassed when other people pay for me.

      Drinks taste better when they're free, though. :)

      1. I don't think so at all. There are a lot of mediocre mexican restaurants around here and everyone has their own personal favorites. So I politely go with friends to their favorites, which I really don't like, and they treat, and it doesn't taste good to me even though it's free! Of course, for all I know when I take them to my favorite place and I treat they might not like it either ;-) Even though it's free!

        1. Towards the end of my career, I got recognized as enough of a foodie that people (especially vendors) always asked me where to go even as they were willing to pay for it. That was always the best option - expensive sushi, Korean bbq with lots of kalbi, great oyster bars and seafood - places I really enjoyed, and yes, enjoyed even more on their tab!

          But I never enjoyed going with them to places they wanted to go - usually the chain steak houses. Nothing wrong with a good steak, but it's nothing I can't make at home. I actually once took one of my account reps from a UK company I used to deal with, home, and cooked strip steaks from Costco on hardwood charcoal. I also brought out my scotch (mostly single/vatted malt) collection for a tasting session in the evening light, on the deck, which led to a surprise present on his next visit of a truly wonderful scotch!

          2 Replies
          1. re: applehome

            Great responses! I hear you about the steaks applehome! And now Costco is selling prime steaks too. Sounds like you really got things to work out for you. I love hearing stories about win-win situations. Everyone makes out! This is sort of off topic but I have noticed over the years that I eat the most when I cook the entire meal at home. Everything is exactly to my liking. Once I got in a rough situation. My parents and I went out to a long late lunch and afterwards picked my boyfriend up from his work. He immediately asked me how lunch was. I didn't want to make him too jealous (he loved food and eating out too) so I said it wasn't all that great. My parents, who had picked up the tab, got mad at me and said I wasn't very appreciative. In retrospect, I should have said lunch was terrific, better a bit of jealousy than angering the parental units. The lunch really was mediocre though. :)

            1. re: givemecarbs

              I think that last bit is key. Although the meal doesn't actually taste better if someone else pays, for politeness, if someone else pays I will generally add a star or so to the experience when talking about it to the host or to anyone who might report back to the host. If I pay and the food was bad, I'll say so. If someone else pays and the food was bad, I won't say so unless they do first.

          2. Nope. I think food tastes better when I pay - I get to have exactly what I want and not have to worry about over-ordering on another person's dime. I can have a starter, a salad, a main, a dessert, a drink, and a coffee if I want. :)