Staring at the food someone else has can be a tricky situation. It can also be a way to start a conversation with them. It all depends on how you go about it and how the situation plays out.
If you don’t say anything at all, they may worry you are hungry and they feel guilty for eating it in front of you. They may feel like you judge them for what they are eating or how much they plan to eat.
To eliminate such feelings from the other party, it is best to say something. Of course, it is better if you say something polite about it rather than derogatory. What you choose to say when you stare at someone’s food will determine if they feel it is rude or not.
It is not rude to stare at someone’s food as long as one says something positive about the food at the moment the other person recognizes it. Especially in a restaurant setting, it is quite common to look at other people’s tables.
If you are curious about what they have or where they got it, ask them! Most people will share such details in a friendly manner.
It Looks and Smells Wonderful
When you see someone with food that looks and smells wonderful, let them know! They will appreciate your comments and feedback. They may offer to give you a sample of it too. If they have cooked the food themselves or someone at home did, it will be even more meaningful when you make such comments to them.
People often take pride in making home-cooked meals. It requires planning, shopping, and the time involved to create it. They often take extras with them for lunch, so you will see and smell wonderful food when you take your lunch break.
If someone brings something that catches your eye, don’t be shy about looking at it. Follow it up with some great conversation about what they have. If someone else made it for them, they will go home and share the compliments!
What to say:
“What are you eating, it smells great?”
“Wow, your lunch looks delicious. Enjoy it.”
“I wish I could cook food like that, yours is amazing!”
“Interested in trading lunches, I could go for something like that!”
“I am impressed with the way your food looks. Mine never comes out that good.”
“Whatever you are eating is making my mouth water, it smells really great!”
“I was wondering what smelled so good in here.”
“You always have the best food with you, either you or someone in your home must be a wonderful cook.”
You Would Like the Recipe
When a meal looks homemade, let the person eating it you like what you see. Let them know you wouldn’t mind trying to make that meal on your own. Ask them for the recipe and see if they will share it.
Most people will be flattered and give you the details about it or where you can find the recipe. They may have found it online and can give you the name of the site to check it out. Some people create their recipes or put a unique spin on those they find.
When that is the case, the person you talk to will be excited you asked about it. The conversation can continue to flow as they tell you what they did differently and how they created what they have in front of them right now.
Depending on your relationship with the person, they may offer to let you sample it. They can also send you the recipe later if you work with them or know them in another capacity.
What to say:
“I am always looking for new recipes, would you mind sharing how you made that?”
“I am wondering how hard that was to make. If it isn’t difficult, I would like to try to create it.”
“That meal is too good to pass up; can you share how you made it?”
“What all ingredients are in that? It is possible something I will grab the ingredients for the next time I shop.”
“Do you mind emailing me the recipe for that? It sure looks wonderful and I would like to make it sometime.”
“Do you share recipes? If so, can I get it? I have some of my own I can share with you if you are interested.”
You Are Curious Where They Got It
If you like what you see someone eat, you may be curious about getting some for yourself. If it appears, they may have gotten it from a restaurant asking about it. They will be happy to share that information.
It is also good for the business where they got it, as they may soon have a new customer when you drop in to place your order!
Takeout orders are common, and there is plenty of variety. For most of us, it is hard to try a new place. You don’t want to spend your money on food you aren’t sure of. You don’t want to be disappointed with the portions or the taste. This is why we revert to our favorite places, those familiar to us.
When you see food, others have and it looks appealing, it is encouraging. You won’t give it a second thought to try it for yourself!
What to say:
“Your food is appealing; can you share where you got it?”
“Did you get takeout? Do you mind telling me the name of the place?”
“I like the way your meal looks and smells. I am curious where you got it?”
“I would love to find out where you got that food. I am interested in trying it myself.”
“Can I get the name and number for the place you ordered that from?”
“I am always up for a new place to get food from. Seeing your food, I would like to know more about the place.”
In a Restaurant Setting
It isn’t uncommon for people to stare at you when you eat in a restaurant setting. Often, they are trying to make up their mind about what they should order from the menu.
They may be looking at all of the dishes brought out to the tables around them. They want to make a good choice and seeing the food is helpful versus just reading the menu.
While it could be seen as rude if you just watch them eat their meal, it isn’t when you look to see what is on their plate.
If you make eye contact with them, make sure you smile and give them a nice comment so they don’t feel uneasy. You don’t want your interest in their food choice to be something that makes them uncomfortable while they try to enjoy a nice meal out.
What to say:
“I may order that after seeing your plate!”
“I wasn’t sure about that item on the menu but not that I see yours it would be a good choice.”
“I don’t know if I could finish a meal like that but it sure looks tempting.”
“Now that I saw your meal, I am changing my mind about what I was going to order.”
“Everything they serve here looks so good! Makes it hard to decide what to get this time.”
Ask Permission to Sit by Them
If you want to know more about their food in detail, ask permission to sit by someone when they are eating. If you just sit there and stare at their food, they may feel you are invading their space. Don’t join them unless they are fine with you doing so and this will avoid them feeling odd about you watching them eat.
When you sit by someone who is eating, be mindful of that. They may have a limited amount of time to finish their meal and then get back to work or other tasks.
They may be happy to engage in small talk, but don’t ask them tons of questions. They will feel obligated to answer, making it harder for them to continue eating. If you are eating too, enjoy your food while you visit with them. If you aren’t eating, try to avoid looking directly at their food too often while they consume it.
What to say:
“Do you mind if I sit here while you eat?”
“Your lunch looks great, is it ok if I sit here and eat mine?”
“Would you like some company while you eat?”
“The smell of your food brought me over to see what you have? Can I sit over here?”
Keep It Positive
It isn’t rude to stare at someone’s food as long as you convey a positive message. This can be an opportunity to strike up a conversation or get a new meal idea to make in your own home.
It can be a way to decide what to order when you go out to eat or give you a new place to try the next time you get takeout. Strive to keep it positive and it won’t be considered rude by the other party!
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.