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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

How to Survive Having Your Boss Over for Dinner

As soon as the words come out of your mouth, you start to think, “Did I just do that?! Did I really just invite my boss over to dinner?” and panic immediately ensues.


Deep breath.

It will be okay!

First of all, your boss is going to pretty impressed by the fact that he or she was invited to dinner in the first place. She will not be envisioning a five-course affair, nor will she expect you to be Julia Child reincarnated. Secondly, try to have fun with this! Take it as an opportunity for your boss to get to know you outside of work and to relax and get to know him or her as a person.

I know this is easy enough to say but in reality much more difficult to do, so here are a few tips on how to make the evening a total success.

1. Prep, Prep, and Prep Some More

Set the table the night before, gather whatever serving platters you’ll be needing, dust off your glasses, make sure the guest bathroom is sparkling clean, and tidy up your home so it’s ready to go for your dinner party. You want to be calm, cool, and collected when your boss arrives, so the more you can tackle ahead of time, the better!

2. Keep it Simple

This is not the time to try out that new recipe you saw the other week while catching up on The Food Network. Nor is it the time to dive into a multi-step recipe that requires your full attention right before serving. Think simple. I would recommend a dish that you prepare the night before, so it can go into the oven and do its thing, giving you the time to mix and mingle with your boss.

Roast chicken with potatoes and green beans is always a crowd pleaser. Or go the Ina Garten route and serve spaghetti and meatballs with an amazing garlic bread on the side. Another Ina favorite of mine is her slow-roasted filet of beef—seriously easy, but so delicious.

Of course, you should double check that your guests don’t have any dietary restrictions. But once you know the constraints you’re working with, pick something simple yet satisfying. Your boss will be blown away!

3. Use as Much Help From the Store as Possible

Bowls of olives. A lovely cheese plate with some fruit and sliced prosciutto. An amazing dip with crudité or savory crackers. There are so many store-bought options that can be transformed simply by placing them in a pretty bowl or arranging them on a platter or serving dish.

For dessert, head to a local bakery and pick up one of the specialty items. Or bring everyone back to their childhoods by creating a grown-up ice cream sundae bar—you could pre-scoop the ice cream and keep it frozen in the bowls you’re going to serve it in, and then bring out a tray with toppings galore, all ready to go ahead of time! Toasted almonds, store-bought chocolate and caramel sauces, freshly whipped cream (whipped ahead of time, of course!), sprinkles, chocolate chips—you get the idea!

4. Make Cocktail Hour Special

Break out the bubbly or whip up a fun cocktail to offer up when your guests arrive—this will set the mood and help smooth away any of the initial awkwardness that your boss is in your home, sitting on your couch. Set out that bowl of olives or cheese plate so everyone has something to nibble on, and let your guests relax as you finish getting dinner ready to go.

Just be sure to not overdo it! Even though you’re outside of the office and in your own home, you should still consider this a professional environment, so it’s wise to have lots of water and non-alcoholic options on hand as well.

5. Invite the Team

If you’re worried about what you’re going to chat about, why not invite a few more colleagues? This way you’re not the only one responsible for entertaining your boss, and they won’t feel left out of the fun!

Cheers to a great evening!

Photo of dinner setting courtesy of Shutterstock.