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Odd condiment question

I've offen wondered what happens to the massive quantities of unused packets of condiments and such that get taken away from restaurant tables.....I guess i assume they get tossed, but part of me hopes that places aren't that wasteful. I'm not talking about stuff on plates and such, but bowls of untouched creamers and butters, untouched seafood sauce, dressing packets or tartar sauce and the like. I don't like sweet and sour sauce or seafood sauce for certain items nor do the friends who usually share appetizers requiring this stuff, and often even when we've asked, breaded mushrooms or beer battered shrimp will come along with five or six packets of S&S or seafood sauces, to which we immediatly ask for ranch or tartar or ketchup maybe...and the waiter usually goes off with it to replace..so nothing gets touched.

What do restaurants do with this stuff?

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  1. If it is a sealed packet, most will use it for the next order. If it is an open ramekin, it gets tossed whether you touch it or not.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mojoeater

      If it is an open ramekin, HOPEFULLY it gets tossed. 'Recycling' happens.

      1. re: babette feasts

        Yes, I worked in a place where that was pretty common -- and it wasn't an inexpensive place either.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          Ughh...me, too

          it was the butter. I tended bar during lunch hour. Entrees would come out with rolls and a dish of butter...any unused butter would be "recycled" into the soup pots

          soooo disgusting...people at the bar smoking cigarettes and drinking all over those butter dishes

          I threw out as much as I could but the waitresses were butter nazis...I never order shrimp or lobster bisque without thinking of that place

    2. I stuff my pockets with the stuff, and bring it into work to kick things up as needed. Just the stuff in the packets, pouring shrimp sauce into your pocket is NOT advised.

      1. With the packets they're so cheap that it is often easier just to chuck it. Anything not sealed must be thrown out.

        1. I either stop them from giving me too many packets, or when I leave I hand them back. Another thing is to refuse them when the bring it out, or specifically say, please don't bring the ABC sauce with the meal.

          Now if it is in a bag, from a drive through, it goes into the fridge for a rainy day. But I can count on one hand how many packets I actually have in there.

          3 Replies
          1. re: danhole

            I try to stop them before they give the packets too. It backfired recently - called in an order for Chinese to go, asked them not to put in the envelope with all the sauces (we have what we need at home), picked it up, got home - every dish was without its sauce!
            Next time I'll just pull out the packets & hand them back.

            1. re: meatn3

              now that just sounds weird, how do you make sweet and sour anything, w/out the sauce? lol

              1. re: justagthing

                It is nice to know they listen to special requests - just didn't think they would listen quite so well! Thought about going back, but it seemed too complicated by that point. I know for next time.

          2. I will on a very rare occasion take a packet or two of something with me, but i always feel a little weird about it. Will only take stuff i'll use, or stuff i normally would'nt want large quantities of kicking around. I know people who'll take salt and pepper packets....i don't do that. It just feels a bit wasteful to toss it all.

            I also wish sometimes that restaurants wouldn't automatically bring out the bill with hard mint or multicolored sweet candies on the plate that almost taste like jolly ranchers. I never eat them , and have a hard time holding a hard candy in my mouth when i'm really full. Exception is those anise flavored balls they give you in Greek places and my favorite indian restaurant has the big dish of candy covered fennel or some sort (little multicolored things that are colored like "goodies" candy), up front with a big spoon, although i kind of shudder to think of who may have stuck their hands in there.

            Taking condiments with me makes me feel like the little old lady i saw once at a salad bar filling her purse with cheese cubes, lol.

            3 Replies
            1. re: im_nomad

              Was that my mom? LOL My mom and others in my family and actually some friends, always bring a handbag that can accomodate a few extra cookies to take home from AYCE places, especially in Vegas.

              1. re: justagthing

                My MIL, now gone, used to steal the little creamers and actually drink from them when she got home, claiming that they "settled her stomach". I think this was her way to enjoy things like cream and half and half without suffering the guilt/criticism of buying them when shopping with my FIL (now also gone). They must have had a thirty years of medically imposed, low fat dieting, and this was about sinful as eating chocolate. Can't say I blamed her.

              2. re: im_nomad

                I remember reading an article about the little candies you speak of, with out the wrappers.
                Someone took samples from restaurants, I think they were Chinese buffet restaurants of the multi-coloured pastel candies without the wrappers and took them to a lab.
                They found traces of semen, urine, feces, saliva and all kinds of other interesting stuff on those candies! Wish i could find that article for you!

              3. When I'm traveling for work, which is a lot, I often swipe an extra packet or two of mustard (especially Guldens) and hot sauce (Texas Pete), to use on the bland catering trays brought in for lunch.

                1. There are quite a few recipes out there that use condiments from restaurants to cook with. Kind of like those cooking with FoodBank food websites. Poverty is the mother of invention. My friend uses the garlic dipping sauce from PizzaPizza on eggs on toast and to make garlic bread. I prefer the hot sauce that you can get from cheap chinese takeout because its so pickley and good. McDonalds sweet n sour or bbq sauce is sickeningly sweet and good on lots of things. I always order extra BigMac sauce to eat late at night out of the package or to add to a sandwich. I also remember reading another thread on here that mentioned some homeless people who take ketchup packets and mix with hot water, salt pepper and creamers to make a poor mans tomato soup....

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: Cookiepants

                    Sorry, could you clarify "cooking with FoodBank food"??

                    1. re: maplesugar

                      Sorry, absolutely. Poor people go to the food bank, often because the amount of money that welfare or social assistance will give them is not enough to buy food. The kind of food they give you is stuff that has been donated and mostly non-perishable. Its hard to cook with this stuff. For anyone who hasnt been to a food bank it usually works like this: you get a certain number of points depending on the number of people in your family and the frequency of your visits. A can of tuna might be 2 points. A box of kraft dinner might be 1 point. A bag of rice might be 2 points. The stale bread would be free lol. So when you get home you might end up with some pretty interesting stuff. Usually the meat and protein choices are pretty limited. Then you get home and you realize that you are hard put to make a nutritionally balanced meal that tastes good out of anything that you brought home. Sometimes you get home from the foodbank and realize that half of the stuff you brought home has an expiry date of a year or two or even longer on it. So people developed recipes on how to cook with the kinds of food that foodbanks pass out. Really poor people use food from the foodbank+condiments from fast food places to eat. Hope I explained it so it makes sense. Its sad isnt it. All the more reason to donate stuff you would want to eat to the food bank.


                      1. re: Cookiepants

                        Thanks Cookiepants. I think Food Banks work differently in different areas. I volunteer weekly at our local Food Bank and we don't have a points system of any kind. We fill hampers (really a set of crates) with specified "basics" that are guaranteed and a whole assortment of perishables which vary week to week but always include milk & bread. The only difference between hampers is size - a single person or couple gets a certain size, then there are larger hampers for families of 4 or more. There is even a specialty hamper for clients with infants that include baby cereal, formula, pureed food. in each case the food is supposed to last a week. Is it gourmet? No. However the hampers always include: juice, soup, pasta, pasta sauce, tomatoes, canned meats (tuna/salmon/ham), beans, kraft dinner, cereal and even candy and condiments (condiments in our case is a catch all category for things that don't belong elsewhere like ketchup or even pancake mix and syrup, taco kits etc). Perishable items like: yogurt, potatoes and sometimes other produce, bread, and milk are also included.

                        I usually work in production where we pack the non-perishable items and on the condiment station (it's a conveyor belt setup) I try my best to put things together that'll go well... a muffin mix with jam, croutons with some salad dressing(keepng an eye on expiry dates of course), pancake mix with canned milk and syrup is a fave of mine.

                        You hit the nail on the head when you said it's important to donate things you would want to eat. The local Food Bank is not a dumping ground for expired food. If you wouldn't eat it because it might make you ill, why should someone who's hungry have to endure it?

                        1. re: maplesugar

                          Thanks Maple Sugar. Your foodbanks sound much better than ours. Thanks for doing the good work that you do.

                          1. re: Cookiepants

                            Thanks Cookiepants. :) I work with 20+ other volunteers, some of who give their time weekly, some monthly and some just once... but most seem to come back to volunteer regularly. For me it's easier that it's on one scheduled night a week so everyone knows that's the night Mommy is out volunteering. It's the first "job" I've really felt gives back to the community and my kids, although they don't get to go with me, have been able to participate by donating food and my oldest put together a birthday kit (an extra we add when a client has a birthday coming up ...when we can it consists of: cake mix, frosting, candles, balloons and a small gift) it helped her understand that not everyone is as fortunate as we are.

                            Another thing about Food Banks - they generally have better grocery buying power than the average donor, you donate $1 to the Food Bank and they can turn that into $4 worth of food. Ours uses cash donations to buy things on the guaranteed item list that we might be short of... and perishables.

                            If you'd like more info about our Food Bank the site is: http://www.calgaryfoodbank.com/

                            (sorry to thread-jack a bit here *blush*)

                            1. re: maplesugar

                              That Birthday kit is such a sweet idea. God bless you and your family for the good work you do!

                          2. re: maplesugar

                            Most manufactures of non-perishable goods are following labeling standards set by New Jersey law, this does not mean that these goods are unfit. If properly stored, most unopened non-perishables are good far beyond the "consume by date". My "vintage" honey from 2002 tasted great when I opened it on Sunday for our biscuits.

                            Give generously and often, if you can.

                            1. re: hipquest

                              I agree that some use by ___ dates seem arbitrary but in the context of the Food Bank it's difficult sometimes to evaluate. Our motto is when in doubt (about whether the food is fit for human consumption) throw it out. A bottle of Ranch dressing dated Best Before 01/01/2001 for example is just scarey.

                              It's one thing to eat something "questionable" at home, I can be reasonably sure where my food came from and that it was stored properly and I'm only hurting myself if I eat it and it turns out I was wrong..... it's another to give food from a donor to a client who'd otherwise go hungry... some of the stuff that comes in the door is dented, leaking or so old it predates barcodes. I don't want to risk complicating someone's life with a food-borne illness when they're life is hard enough that they had to come to the Food Bank for help.

                      2. re: Cookiepants

                        I didn't know that Big Mac sauce came in packages . . . ?? Is this a recent thing or has it always been available?

                        1. re: sheilal

                          Im not sure if its a recent thing, but I do know that I started ordering them about three years ago and the Big Mac Sauce always came in packages a bit bigger than a ketchup package. Maybe twice the size. McChicken sauce is McDonalds mayo and it is also lovely on fries. I found out about it from my friend who likes to get her dollar menu cheese burgers and any burger that is on sale "dressed like a big mac" which means mcdonalds has to make it fresh and put some lettuce and sauce on it. The last time we went together, about a year ago? McDonalds refused to dress their cheese burger like a big mac. BigMac sauce is lovely on a sandwich from home though!

                        1. re: Peg

                          That was interesting, Peg! Reminds me of our fridge back when we were young and always broke. I would save the ketchup packets and then refill my ketchup bottle with the leftover packets! It was amazing the different colors and consistencies. I don't think I bought ketchup for a year at least! (hanging head in shame now!)

                          1. re: Peg

                            Thanks for the link lol. Mr. Turnbee needs help hehe. A) He consumes far too much fast food if they have so many packets at home B) Maybe he could just say "No Thank you" and pass them back to the cashier.

                            A lot of the fast food places here have started only giving out condiments if you ask for them or placing them in self serve bins or, putting out pumps by the napkins and straws... even though the pumps can be messy at least people are only prone to taking what they need since they can't easily take it home.

                          2. Here's another question I was thinking while reading this thread: Is it ok to bring packets of condiments into a restaurant and use them discreetly?
                            I certainly don't mean to bring something in that you would otherwise buy. Sometimes I enjoy a cup of coffee at a diner but I need more sweetness to my coffee than sugar and cream but if there are no flavored syrups at the restaurant I'll bring those little tubs of flavored coffeemate from home. I figure it's better to buy their coffee than just stick to water.
                            I don't keep ketchup packets in my purse because I don't like the stuff but sometimes they would be handy to have for my friend who always seems to have to track down a waiter to bring a bottle of ketchup that arrives when we're just about done.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Lixer

                              My friend loves tabasco and depending on where he is going sometimes brings in those little mini-bottles.

                              1. re: Lixer

                                I like the flavoured creamers that are available from Seven Eleven. I usually take two and only use one as they are strong. The second one I take home and use to dress up an ordinary cup of coffee at home. I dont think there is anything wrong with this as I could easily drink two in my coffee, but I am making myself save it for later and it does not go to waste. I dont think bringing flavoured creamers is any different then people who carry around splenda or sweet and low, or a very specific type of sweetner in their purse. I know diabetics who prefer one sweetner over the other and as a lot of restaurants do not carry both, they want to make sure they have their sweetner of choice.