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Taking Leftover's Home

I dine often at a restaurant that is known for very large portions. When I visit this restaurant, I bring along a plastic container. I prefer packaging the food rather than the waitstaff doing it in the kitchen. Friends feel it's tacky. Have others done this?

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  1. It's tacky. Let them do it for you... or ask that the box be brought to the table.

    1. Yes, Mike, it's tacky. It reminded me of a story my MIL told of seeing an elderly lady taking zip lock baggies to the buffet. OMG.
      All restaurants are prepared with boxes for the "doggie".

      1. While it is tacky, I often feel like this is a better option than using the containers provided in the restaurant. Whether they use styrofoam or paper or aluminum foil, I almost invariably remove the leftovers and transplant them into tupperware or something of that nature upon reaching home anyway. It keeps any odors from permeating other items in the fridge, and it keeps leftovers fresher, not to mention the sheer waste of using all those containers. I have yet to actually tote tupperware to a restaurant, but the urge strikes more often than I'd admit to most.

        1. I agree. I think it's tacky and I wouldn't really be a fan of my guest doing it. Of course, you should do whatever you want. I thought I'd heard that bringing in your own container was a health code violation and the servers can't handle them. I'm sure that isn't a problem if you're boxing it yourself, but I would imagine if this were true, they wouldn't be doing it for you.

          1. You know, as good of an idea as this is (using a recyclable container, keeping an eye on your own food, less hassle to get the container...) if I were a friend or the waiter I would find it pretty tacky for reasons that I'm not able to articulate quite as well.
            I don't see the harm though if you're alone, not a regular at the restaurant, or with a friend who doesn't mind.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Lixer

              >for reasons that I'm not able to articulate quite as well.
              i think it's a matter of a slippery slope and avoiding kind of a dining
              room tupperware spectacle.

              short of some scenario where say you have a relationship with a
              chinese or indian resto, and are picking up 50 kebabs, or soup for 20people,
              i think it is a strong default that this isnt done at the table.

              >I prefer packaging the food rather than the waitstaff doing it in the kitchen.

            2. As others have said, it is tacky.

              Perhaps you can ask the restaurant for a half-order?

              1. Unconventional, for sure. Possibly a tad eccentric. Tacky? I don't think so. I say "go for it".

                3 Replies
                1. re: grampart

                  Tacky, tacky, tacky. Don't do it again. Let the staff box it up -- its part of their job. If I were a server and saw a customer doing this, I'd be expecting a minimal gratuity from him as well. Let's hope that's not the case.

                  1. re: Cheflambo

                    I had a visceral reaction against the Tupperware too, probably because my Grandmother used to do it, and I'd get embarassed. But then I thought, maybe it's time to just revise our perceptions in favor of less waste, carbon, all that stuff.

                    1. re: wearybashful

                      As a waitress who sees so much waste, I say it's a great idea. I had a customer do it once and I appluaded her decision and told her so. Tacky's for the birds. Do it!

                2. I agree with everyone else who said it's tacky. Just ask the server to bring the container to your table. I can't imagine they wouldn't if asked in a nice way.

                  1. I think it's great, if only for the environmentally-friendly aspect. But I admit I'd probably be mortified if my dinner date did it.

                    Could you ask the staff to pack it in your tupperware, so at least you're not doing it at the table?

                    1. Eccentric & unusual, yes. Quirky too. I don't see it as tacky. Tacky is bringing a container & filling it with rolls, condiments, sugar, etc.
                      It is a very green choice. Once in a while you find a restaurant that uses non-petro based containers, but very seldom. Also, many of the styro containers leak if not held perfectly level. Go for it! Those who find it strange will either get over it or have something new to talk about. As an aside, I often find that servers "edit" what they put in a box. Ex: include the meat, leave out the sides...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: meatn3

                        I completely agree with Meatn3. I don't think it's tacky, unless you're doing this to take home things you didn't pay for. I also think it's not a bad idea in theory for environmental reasons. Would I do it myself? Probably not.

                      2. in days past, yes, the manner mavens would have though it tacky. however, times change, and there are very valid reasons for providing your own container. nowadays, it's no more tacky than providing your own grocery shopping bags. in fact, you should be doubly applauded for not wasting the too-large portions and providing your own container. manners can be viewed, in a sense, as preserving the world; well, so is reusing/recycling. go for it, and don't worry about those who can't see the bigger picture.

                        1. the jfood do not do take-home so jfood does not have a dog in this hunt, and he does not think "it's tacky" but it is a little unusual. How many times have containers from restos opened in the car and spilled all over the "Rich Corinthian Leather"? And it sorta takes the question of charging for the container off the table.

                          Question on where do you keep the plastic containers while you eat? under the table? Hopefully these are not in plain site for everyone to see.

                          And please do not leave the big brown bag on the table if you are lingering. This sorta is out of character with a resto when the table next to you has a large brown bag on the table.

                          And jfood agrees that it should not be for condimets, bread and tea bags. And please people do understand that this is absolutely not for buffets.

                          1. Mrs. ricepad does this for environmental reasons, and I'm both a trifle embarrassed by it but also immensely proud of her for having the courage to act consistently with her convictions. She doesn't care if the people at the next table think it's tacky...she knows, in her heart of hearts, that it's the right thing to do.

                            1. Not tacky at all. Of course I wouldn't do it if I were out on a date or if someone else is treating. On those occasions I wouldn't take leftovers anyway. And buffetts wouldn't let you do it. Otherwise it's envrionmentally friendly and should be applauded for doing so. We have too much styrofoam things floating around as it is.

                              For those who think it's tacky, please cite a reference to why it is tacky.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: PeterL

                                wrapping the food up at the table is tacky b/c the server should remove the food from the table and take care of it in the kitchen. The surrounding diners shouldn't have to watch food being scraped or dumped or wrapped.

                                Those who bring their own containers for environmental reasons are great. I might start doing so. If so, i would ask the server if he or she would mind putting the leftovers in the container I had.

                                also, there are some who believe that taking things home at all is tacky, but I disagree. I love leftovers and hate being wasteful.

                                1. re: nc213

                                  I totally agree that wrapping the food at the table is tacky, but I've been brought take-out containers in a few Asian restaurants by the waitstaff (can't remember if they were Chinese, Korean, Thai -- could have been all of them) and asked to pack the food myself.

                                  From the environmental perspective, I think it's admirable. But I'd probably be a bit embarrassed if somebody did this in front of me. I once remember dining with a friend who brought her own tupperware container at a buffet. She was actually going to put some food in her container until she realized that there was a camera pointing right at our table! She has also stuffed uneaten rice in her purse at an AYCE sushi restaurant once. Talk about being mortified!

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    Where I went to college (upstate NY) I was surprised to find that many restaurants present the take out container for you to transfer your own food into instead of doing it for you in the kitchen. It was always awkward and inevitably messy for me. At home (Westchester) and elsewhere downstate they always take the food away for wrap-up. Interesting regional difference...

                              2. I have never done this, never thought about doing it, never seen it(id probably have a good chuckle if I did), and I gurantee something I will never do.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: swsidejim

                                  High tack if you do it yourself on the table. But what you could do is discreetly say to the server, "I prefer to use my own containers. Would you mind taking this in the kitchen, and packaging it for me?" They'll probably come back with your container in their bag. They get the advertising, you get to use the container you like.

                                  1. re: brendastarlet

                                    Interesting scenario.

                                    I just couldnt imagine being at home before going, out, and packing up some tupperware to carry with me in the event of leftovers. As a guy, where would I stash it? Perhaps I would have to start carrying a man-purse ; )

                                2. I think it's a great move in terms of using unnecessary packaging. I could get over whatever issues I might have about the horror of seeing food boxed up at a table pretty quickly, I'm sure. I say keep doing what you're doing so long as you're polite about it.

                                  1. I find it more and more common that food for the "doggie bag" is boxed at the table. With all the stories we hear about what happens to food in a kitchen (whether we believe it or not), people prefer to keep their eye on the food. I do think that the waitstaff should make the transfer, it is what they are trained to do, and are less likely to make a mess of things.

                                    The only "tacky" aspect of bringing your own container is the assumption that you are going to be ordering more than you can possibly eat. Since many of the more popular restaurants seem to serve food in amounts that virtually insure this, I don't think its so tacky after all, although I would be more prone to do this at Cheesecake factory than at the French Laundry. Some food is meant to be eaten fresh, or not at all.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                      Well there's a good point. Hubby and I are always amused at those who have 'doggie bags' after dining at restaurants that barely give enough to eat at one meal. No, I don't believe we are pigs.

                                      Although I wouldn't do it, why not bring your own container? Especially if the place charges for takeout containers. As to eating food fresh or not at all? It's been a very rare dish, okay one, that I wasn't able to reheat and eat again.

                                    2. I hope all you Super Greens are reusing your silverware across courses and maybe
                                      your wine glasses too.

                                      Is it politically incorrect for Super Greens to sit under heatlamps? Is ok if the resto
                                      adds a carbon offset surcharge?

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: psb

                                        psb--I don't see why you are attacking these people who are trying to reduce how much they consume. No one here said that anyone should do what they do or admonished others for using takeout containers. Why insult and attack people who are trying to make a small difference?

                                        1. re: nc213

                                          hi, you're right, that's a bit obnoxious above.

                                          1. i frankly think the efficient way to solve the problem is to introduce charges,
                                          but lots of people agree being nickle and dimed detracts from the dining experience.
                                          [e.g. a nominal charge for bread = people who dont get value from it, wont consume
                                          the resource. BTW, is it "tacky" to take the uneaten bread? i think that is a far, far
                                          better example of not wasting. how about the uneaten rice?]

                                          2. i think trying to make a "small difference" by using recycleable containers
                                          for take out food is pretty ridiculous. like when CA had a water shortage and
                                          restaurants were MADATED BY LAW not to serve water unless the patron
                                          asked for it. this to me sounds like some dood who drives a Bitchin Camero
                                          replacing his 5watt nightlight with a 1watt LED nightlight [i dont actually know
                                          how much power nightlighs draw, but you see what i mean].

                                          3. without a doubt people have the right to do things for arbitrary reasons
                                          and dont need to be especially consistent or coherent, unless perhaps they
                                          are proslytizing. if somebody wants to be a vegetarian and carve out an exception
                                          for salami, they dont have to justify that in some sensible way. on the other hand
                                          if they claim salami is vegetarian, i think they can reasonably be called on that.

                                          i am not an expert in this, but my understanding is eating meat is highly "energy
                                          intensive". i suspect boiling potatos also consumes a lot of energy. in fact i suspect
                                          a lot of "fancy dining" is pretty energy intensive [not to mention transportation
                                          overhead, whether it is road tripping or flying]. the marginal difference from
                                          bringing your own packing material seems trivial. i think if you live a modest,
                                          energy conscious life ... you drive a reasonable car, you dont own a leaf blower,
                                          you dont own a swimming pool/jacuzzi/hot tub, you recycle grocery bags, you
                                          dont gratuitously buy new towels as the seasons change etc, the gods of the earth
                                          will cut you a little slack when you want to go to a restaurant and get a cardboard
                                          or plastic togo container. i think by not wasting food, you're doing your part.

                                          ok tnx.

                                          p.s. i note in passing, i am perfectly happy to reuse my silverware across courses
                                          and not reuse a wine glass that been consumed to the last drop.

                                      2. I totally have wanted to do! There is a place i love that has a great brunch with crepes, but they won't do take out! I want to enjoy at home with S.O. and think about getting a table and ordering two crepes..then saying I can't finish and ask for it in a doggie bag!
                                        Maybe i should carry in some tupperware in a tote bag and do it myself!

                                        1. I never let the server disappear with MY food. I Have this fear of not getting my original dish wrapped up (suppose I ordered the prime rib special and do did tons of other diners?) I always ask for a container be brought to me for that reason, even it infuriated my daughter who is a waitress. One thing I can tell you, always leave a fork or some utensil you used on your dish, or they will just grab any thing they see to pile the food into the container. YUCK!!!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Barbarella

                                            Give servers some credit... do you think there are plates of food just lying around and we might scoop up anything? There is usually an (empty) table with packaging supplies. We set your plate down, grab a box, put your food inside, return to your table. We grab a clean utensil to scrape the food off of the plate. No server in their right mind would package up food for several tables at the same time, thus mixing up your prime rib. I have worked in several restaurants, and this has always been like this for me. BUT if you asked for a container at your table, I would also bring it to you, easier for me, and sometimes people aren't clear if they want everything on their plate, or would rather pick and choose. I had someone once in all seriousness ask me if i could wrap up the bones from her chicken dinner. JUST the bones.

                                            1. re: sarahelan

                                              I am just telling you what my daughter tells me goes on in restos. She has many friends that work as servers.They may have not done this, but have seen this done, especially when bus people come to take the meal away. Once I got home and found I had someone elses meal brought back to me!! Now I wrap it myself even if I have to say "Yo me hago" in Spanish.

                                          2. I think there is something amiss with a restaurant culture that leads you to expect there to be left-overs to take home. Here in the UK we expect an amount of food that we can actually eat at one sitting.
                                            How did the extra-large portions come about in the US?

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Peg

                                              Telephone handsets dont come in various sizes, because the range of head sizes
                                              is not that large. Shoes and pants do come in various sizes because the range is large.
                                              The range of appetities is pretty large. It's not clear what size a steak "should" be ...
                                              and there is a continuum of sizes for many things, while something like beer may
                                              some in discrete sizes like pints.

                                              People also can reasonably have different quality-quantity preference curves at
                                              constant dollars and restaurants can reasonably position themselves differently.

                                              I dont see anything wrong with ordering a large pizza for two people specifically
                                              so I could have some cold pizza the next day. At a chinese resto, if I order more
                                              dishes than I can eat because I want to try more things, what's wrong with taking
                                              the surplus home? These are not a case of portions size but the quantity of food

                                              I think it is possibly an interesting question "why are portion sizes larger here"
                                              [and it is trivial to just say "they are responding to ux patrons demanding larger
                                              sizes than uk patron ... so given that we are the same species, why the difference
                                              in expectations?], but you post seems some what tendentious ["something amiss" ...
                                              "here in the uk [we do things right]".
                                              the customer ordered.

                                              1. re: psb

                                                I was not meaning to sound 'tenditious'... it is just that I have seen other threads mentioning huge portions and wondered it was perhaps the norm?
                                                Is it that the portions really ARE larger, or is it that people order more than they want deliberately? I have eaten maybe 30 times in NY and have never had large amounts of food left over - do I just go to places that have smaller portions or am I ordering less than the average American does?
                                                If it is a matter of ordering food deliberately to take home, then why don't we do it in the UK? I suspect prices have something to do with it, but has that always been the case?
                                                (I realise this is way off the topic of the thread).

                                                1. re: Peg

                                                  Venturing further off piste ...

                                                  "some people" claim that USA people just eat larger portions than in europe
                                                  [although i think they are usually talking about the continent]. now if that is
                                                  true for home meals, we can agree that restos are merely calibrating to this
                                                  and that it is an attribute of the populations [mean dinner portion size_USA >
                                                  mean dinner portion size_UK] and that it is not a restaurant phenomena.

                                                  i havent read that pollan fellow's book but didnt hey throw out some statistic
                                                  like "40% of meals in the US are fast food togo meals" or "eaten in a car"
                                                  ... something like that? that sounded a little suspect to me, but i suppose it would
                                                  not be surprising to learn different societies distribute their daily ~2000-3000
                                                  calories in very differnt ways across b'fast, lunch, dinner, snacks ... certainly
                                                  some places peak dinign hours are 5-7, other places, 9ish maybe etc.

                                                  ok tnx.

                                            2. If the restaurant/server is going to bring you the styrofoam container and plastic bag and have you transfer the food yourself, what is the difference if you put it in your own plastic container?

                                              And would watching someone use their own plastic really disrupt your meal?

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: tom porc

                                                Am I the only one who thinks bringing food home from a restaurant at all is tacky?

                                                1. re: paper_bag_princess

                                                  PBP, I think it depends on where you are dining. If I were at the French Laundry, I would not. If I were at my favorite Chinese place, I would. BUT, never would I bring my own container in under my arm just in case I didn't finish my meal. That's where "tacky" kicks in.

                                                  1. re: Gail

                                                    True, although I tend not to bring anything home even in places where it would be acceptable just because I can't be bothered and usually the types of things I order don't do well as leftovers.

                                                  2. re: paper_bag_princess

                                                    Not at the prices they charge for food in Westchester, NY.

                                                2. With everyone seeming to be sooo "green" these days I would say it's better to use your own container and that it may have been tacky a few years ago but not today, or is it. You can quell any tawdry impressions perceived by waitstaff, friends and those around you by proclaiming your commitment to decrease your carbon foot print. That will put those wasteful piggys in their place. Go forth and recycle.

                                                  1. I do not find it tacky at all, I refuse to pollute the Earth with any more than I can humanly get away with. Styrofoam is one of the most useless products ever invented and thank GOD many restaurants have stopped using them. (I loathe McDonald's but I applaud the decision they made years ago to stop using the clamshell packs for sandwiches) I think it is very eco-friendly and admirable of you.

                                                    1. There are actually 2 points to this issue - bringing one's own containers AND whether or not to pack it oneself or let the waitstaff do it behind closed doors. With regard to the latter, many restaurants have the patrons box their own food anyhow. But first question is (in my mind) an environmentalist issue - and I am strongly in favor of using as few disposables as possible in my life. I reuse plastic bags, plastic containers, and plastic silverware (if I am forced to use them at all, that is!) And I see nothing wrong with bringing one's own containers to a restaurant...yes, be discreet, of course, and obviously, not at a super-fancy or formal dining establishment. (Most such places, at least in my experience, have portion sizes such that nothing substantial would remain on the plate, anyhow...)
                                                      In my mind, the real embarassment should be heaped on those who ask for a doggy bag (and are handed the standard styrofoam environment-killing box) - then proceed to walk two blocks with it, change their minds, and toss it all into the trash!

                                                      1. The only thing that has ever embarassed me in a restaurant was my grandmother when I was a child. She would use her glass of water and her napkin to wash her silverware before eating. Mortifying! So you wouldn't embarass me by bringing your own doggy bag, but! But! But! But! I have the same problem with your practice as I had with my grandmothers. Why do you trust a restaurant enough to eat the food they've cooked off the dishes they've washed, but you draw the line at allowing them to put your leftovers in a container they provide? Something illogical in there somewhere.

                                                        1. I had never even considered (shame on me!) the option of bringing my own container to take home my leftovers, but I certainly am now! I truly believe we have to stem so very much waste in this world. If one takes home what one cannot eat in one sitting and eats it the following day - stemming waste. If one brings one's own container, versus using the containers that restaurants have to pay for (other threads!), and shovels one's own leftovers in - stemming waste. I don't see why it's a bad thing. Or even bad manners, frankly.

                                                          Most of us are not facing this issue if we eat in a tonier restaurant with smaller portions (steakhouses excepted!), but we are facing it in our local pub-grub place, our local Chinese place, our big-plate-of-spaghetti-n-meatballs place, and so on. In such places, we are usually given our takeout boxes and we deal with them ourselves. Not bad manners. Likewise not bad manners to haul the reusable Gladware out of our ubiquitous messenger bags and save yet one more clamshell container from the landfill.

                                                          Next time I go out to my favorite Chinese place, I know Hub and I will each order a dish. Since neither of us can actually stuff a quart-plus of food into our stomachs, I will make sure we have a couple of containers in my shoulder bag and we'll box up using those instead of boxing up using the conatiners the waitsatff brings us. I'll be curious is anyone looks askance.

                                                          When I go to my farmer's market, I always bring not only my big market bag, but a bunch of plastic bags as well, so my vendors don't have to use up their stock and I can reuse what I have for the smaller, putzy stuff. Invariably, I get a thank you from the vendor when I say "that's okay - I have my own bag" for, say, the green beans or the strawberries.

                                                          Who knows, maybe this bring-a-box-from-home idea will catch on - remember the "Seinfeld" episode when suddenly everyone was eating candy bars and donuts with a fork and knife instead of by hand? Things have a way of becoming popular. I don't see a problem with this little bit of waste mitigation catching on.



                                                          1. I had never heard or thought of bringing your own containers to restaurants to store leftovers and, at first, I thought it was tacky. But after reading other CHs' posts, I think it's a great idea. It's much tackier to waste food or unnecessary packaging. This does not seem to be as common a practice as bringing your own bag to the grocery store, so I think many restaurants would at first think it's "odd." But if enough people do it, and the movement catches on.... Wouldn't do this in higher-end places, but then again, as others have said, I rarely have leftovers in those places b/c of the smaller serving portions.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: gloriousfood

                                                              But see what Caroline1 said:

                                                              'Why do you trust a restaurant enough to eat the food they've cooked off the dishes they've washed, but you draw the line at allowing them to put your leftovers in a container they provide?'

                                                              After reading through the entire thread, I still wouldn't bring my own takeout container.

                                                              I figure I will never know and don't really want to know what goes on in the kitchen in preparation for my food, so them taking it back to the kitchen to wrap up doesn't bother me in the least.

                                                              1. re: dolores

                                                                I really don't see it as a matter of trust; I see it more as something that never occurred to me, something that no one in my group has ever done (at least in front of me) or talked about, and, most important, something with positive environmental consequences. That's the angle that really piqued my interest, and the only reason I would think of doing something like this.

                                                                For me, it has nothing to do with knowing or not knowing what goes on in the kitchen or trusting a restaurant to put my leftovers in their own containers in their own kitchens (another issue that never occurred to me, to tell the truth!). But hey, if they can put leftovers in *my* containers and cut down on the use of styrofoam, why not?

                                                            2. The times they are achangin'. What would have been considered tacky 10 years ago looks a little different now. If you have a plastic container in a large handbag or shopping bag and hand it to your server at the end of the meal, what's the complaint? Styrofoam is bad for the planet, and people who are trying to do their little bit to help get high marks from me.

                                                              1. Do you really want your server to be touching a bunch of dishes from people's kitchens? You have no idea what kind of homes they keep. As a waitress, I was specifically told we can't do this because it's a health code violation. There have been outbreaks of hepatitis C at restaurants. It's the same reason a server shouldn't take your half eaten food away from the table and into the kitchen where they're preparing other people's food. Everything should be boxed at the table (or designated station -away from the food prep area.) Now, putting your own food into the container negates these risks for other people, so just do it yourself.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh

                                                                  I wish patrons were as concerned with rude obnoxious servers and managers as they are with takeout containers and what goes on in the kitchens.

                                                                  Me, I expect sweat and spit in my dishes, and I don't care where or how my leftovers get assembled.

                                                                  While this was an excellent, entertaining read, I'm still not worried enough about 'green' to bring my own or the bathroom habits of those in the kitchen to prohibit them from wrapping my food out of sight.

                                                                2. Interesting read... my 2 cents: I bring my own bags to the grocery store, my own cup to the cafe, so why not bring a container to a casual dining restaurant? (I say casual dining because I can't think of a fine dining establishment in which I've ever had anything left over) I think this is a good idea....styrofoam isn't exactly biodegradable. Would I pack my doggie bag myself? No.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: maplesugar

                                                                    maplesugar brings coffee cup to the cafe--at my local coffee shop you get $0.25 off your to-go coffee for doing this.

                                                                    packaging is expensive in monetary and environmental ways, as i was flamed in other threads for pointing out. i think it should become acceptable to bring your own to-go containers for food, and i would offer a discount to the customer who did this rather than wasting expensive, & time/space consuming packaging. restaurants that could cut back on packaging could significantly reduce their overhead costs and pass the savings on to customers. there would be additional benefits for the diner as well-- you could invest on nice reusables that could go from restaurant to fridge to work the next day w/o having to transfer and discard once you got home. . . i personally love my sigg bottle and much prefer drinking fountain water out of it than paying a buck and drinking a packaged, wasteful bottle of water.

                                                                    people's habits are changing with regard to bringing their own bags to market, cutting down on heavily packaged bottled water, not buying products in non-recyclable materials. . . there is probably a place for byo to-go containers in casual places imo.

                                                                    shouldn't expect the server to bring your container into the kitchen, though, as others have stated, this is unsanitary and probably illegal. do this transfer at the table or at a designated packaging station.