Are you hosting a foreign client for lunch or dinner in Manila?

TL;DR: Pinoy food for lunch. Put your personality into it. Take care of special dietary needs. Fine and intimate dining for dinner. Enjoy.

Hosting foreign clients, bosses and even balikbayans for lunch or dinner in Manila sounds easy, right? You just pick a restaurant, look at the menu, order, eat and that’s it, right?

Based on about 5 years’ experience in hosting foreign clients, bosses and balikbayans, it isn’t really that easy. Which restaurant should you take your clients? Do they need special arrangements? Should we even go out of the office for lunch?

Below are some tips we would like to share with you to hopefully be of some help in your hosting assignment:

Never serve balut (fertilized duck embryo). – Don’t try to be cute or cliché.

  • Pinoy food for lunch! – Yes, whether you are eating in the office or going to a restaurant, you have to serve them Pinoy food. Don’t be hesitant in doing so. It will make your life easier and will make the meal memorable for them. They will appreciate it.
  • What kind of Pinoy food would be best to serve them? – Based on feedback, our guests love lechon. We got our lechon from the nearest lechon restaurant from our office (Lydia’s Lechon), so it was always very freshly chopped. They love it. Some go for 3 servings, each visit.
    • What else did they like? Sisig (from Gerry’s Grill), Sinigang na bangus sa bayabas (Milkfish in sour guava soup), Hardinera (from Buddy’s), Muhlach Ensaymada and Relyenong Bangus (from Bangus). Always have a fried chicken dish as backup in the rare times that some would not want the other dishes that you picked.
    • Never serve balut (fertilized duck embryo). – Don’t try to be cute or cliché. They will not appreciate it especially in a professional setting. You can show Pinoy pride in your food without serving balut.
  • Should we have lunch in the office or eat out? – It depends. The advantage of eating in the office is that no one will feel the urge to hurry up eating since you, as the host, will have full control of the time the food is served. On the other hand, eating out will have the advantage of minimizing problems with delays in delivery of the food, clean-ups and some awkward moments in the rare chance that they don’t like the food you picked. On the other, other hand, consider Manila traffic.

So, rule of thumb is: don’t order food or go to a vegetarian restaurant that you yourself don’t like. Chances are, they will also not want to eat their food.

  • What about special dietary needs?
    • Vegetarians – Pinoys tend to think that vegetarians eat fish (???) but we need to change this and be more sensitive. We learned also that the Philippines has only a handful of real vegetarian restaurants and some of them are not that good (according to our guests themselves). So, rule of thumb is: don’t order food or go to a vegetarian restaurant that you yourself don’t like. Chances are, they will also not want to eat their food.
    • What did our vegetarian guests like? Vegetarian pizza (mostly from Shakey’s) and side dishes from Racks (plus the Onion Brick). Yes, they like to eat where you like to eat too. Hopefully, it will be easier to get paneer tikka, hummus, or good eggplant lasagna in Manila soon.
    • Never forget to ask your guests if they have allergies! We don’t want their stay to be that memorable.
  • Should we order from one restaurant or from several? – If you can order from several, you should! Why? Because it will show how much you appreciate their visit and it will also showcase what Pinoy food you want them to try. And maybe, even give them an idea about you, since you will undoubtedly put some of your personality into the food or restaurant that you will pick. (Just make sure they will all deliver at your preferred time)
  • What about dinner? Most likely than not, this will take place outside the office so here are a few suggestions:
    • Fine dining (or Premium Casual at the minimum). A restaurant with a good wine list is a plus.
    • Preferably with a private room to better hear each other.
    • Make sure you have arranged for transportation early in the day.
    • Be there first, or if you are going together, lead the way.
    • Get the name of the server assigned and be friends with him/her.
    • Order first. Often, the host ordering first will help the guests decide on what to order. Some will order what you will be having.
    • Learn the art of conversation.
    • Take care of the bill. Or hand it to your boss (Disclaimer: we are not responsible if you get fired).
    • Desserts? – Take a cue from your guests. Some may instead want to go back to their hotel because of jetlag, flight schedules, etc.
    • Make sure you have arranged for their ride back to their hotel or place.

Hopefully the tips will help you in your hosting duties. Please let us know if you have other experiences or suggestions. Make sure to have a great time in the planning and, in the eating!

Happy foodtripping!


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