Debrett's says it's OK to serve guests takeaway
In a modern world where time is precious, it is tempting to cut corners when hosting a dinner party by ordering a takeaway.
Now Debrett's, the authority on social etiquette since 1769, is offering a concession to those too busy to spend time in the kitchen or surprised by unexpected guests: serving takeaways to your guests is not the social faux pas it once was, the guide says, provided that the meal is served on china and that the plates have been warmed first.
But hosts must never attempt to pass off the food as their own, and asking guests to pay anything is also frowned upon.
The new guidance appears in Debrett's Guide to Entertaining Etiquette, which offers hosts advice that includes the correct way to serve tea and how to ensure your guests do not overstay their welcome.
A recent survey found that using takeaways while entertaining has now become a commonplace cheat, with 12 per cent of people admitting they had passed off such food as their own cooking.
Delia Smith, the celebrity chef, has also helped to change the view of what is acceptable, with her book Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking, in which she suggested using tinned soup and pre-chopped vegetables.
Johnny Roxburgh, a party planner at society caterers The Admirable Crichton, said that serving takeaways to guests allowed hosts to focus on other aspects of entertaining.
"It's about your friends being with you, and if you're a better, less stressed host, then why not order in? As long as it's served on good china," he said.
However, Polly Betton, a professional party organiser from Tea Time Productions, believes there is never any excuse for serving takeaways to guests.
"People don't always expect home-made fresh bread when they come round, but everyone can reach a shop to get some ingredients. In the time it takes for you to warm the plates and get the china ready as they suggest, you probably could have rustled up something from what you had lying around," she said.
Jo Bryant, an etiquette adviser at Debrett's, said: "Even if you are forced to order a takeaway, you can still be a good host by making an occasion of it, allowing your guest to choose the cuisine and by digging out your own chopsticks."