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To Box or not

Sometimes I see people leave a good chunk of their meal behind and I think it's a waste of food.

Does boxing your meal say you're cheap or that you conserving food for a later time? Presumming that the meal was good in the first place.

If you take a "doggie bag" home do you let them box it or do you box it yourself. I had two waitresses from two different resturant say to me that they do not blame me for boxing up my own food. What do they do with it when they take it away to box?

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  1. Some food is at best mediocre when reheated. For example, lots of fish, pasta and grain dishes. They are not worth the calories.

    1. Always box. Food waste is a social crime. Doesn't matter who boxes.

      39 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        Agree with Sam. Only once was I refused a box. It was at the restaurant in Neiman Marcus near Miami. I was so shocked I asked to speak to a manager. It was their policy. No doggie bags. And they had such nice popovers too.

        1. re: givemecarbs

          I would have informed them that your policy was no tipping. That they wouldn't box your food is outrageous.

          1. re: bnemes3343

            It's probably department store rules. I tried to once get something to go at a cafe in Lord and Taylors. They told me no because the department store wouldn't allow it as they didn't want people to be carrying food around their merchandise. It kind of pissed me off at that point but it's not the cafe's rules. And, yes, I can understand the stupidity of this rule as there's no rule forbidding somebody from entering Lord and Taylors with packaged outside food. But it's not the servers' faults for these policies, and it's probably not fair to penalize them for enforcing these stupid rules.

            I take things to go unless I'm traveling in a non-city or there's literally a couple of bites left and it's not worth the trouble and disposable resources for them to pack it. If I'm in my hometown, my leftovers can make a very nice meal the next day. If I'm traveling in a city, I leave the stuff near a trash can so homeless people can eat it if they wish -- DH hates it when I do that because he says it's like littering. But I have seen homeless people pounce on my meal a few seconds after I leave it around. I have to admit I felt guilty about not asking for things to go in countries where people are not as affluent because I probably seem like the spoiled wasteful American. But I generally don't stay in hotels where there are kitchen facilities, and I'm not going to force myself to eat something. I really wish more places would have different size servings. In general, women eat less than men, and portions out there are generally geared so that the average male is satisfied. And at higher end restaurants I don't ask for things to go because portion sizes tend to be more suitable for me and this type of food generally doesn't work well to repackaging and reheating.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Maybe the lesson is that when you go to a high end department store restaurant, tuck a few zip lock bags in your purse before you go! '-)

              1. re: Miss Needle

                Miss Needle, do you ask the server to pack plastic utensils and a napkin if you"re leaving the food for homeless people? Just asking in a nice way........

                1. re: neverlate

                  It's a very good question. When I get food home to go in my hometown (where it's for myself), I find that some people do pack napkins and utensils and some don't. I don't check my package when I'm out of town and get food to go. Thank you for bringing this up, and I'll make sure to tell the waitstaff.

                  1. re: neverlate

                    If I know in advance that I will be giving my leftovers to someone else, I do ask for plasticware and napkins. I also do the same if I know I will be eating the leftovers somewhere besides home.

                    1. re: neverlate

                      I was a bit blown away by the homeless/trash concept- then cracked up by neverlate

                      wow and thanks

                      1. re: neverlate

                        We were in SF a few months ago and were carrying home leftover Chinese food. Came across a homeless man bedding down in a doorway. I offered it to him and apologized that I didn't have a fork for it. He was happy to have it.

                    2. re: bnemes3343

                      You shouldn't punish the servers for a stupid restaurant policy.

                      1. re: bnemes3343

                        The server has no control over the resto's policy.
                        Nonetheless, it's asinine.
                        I think it's better service if they 'wrap' your food, and I think you should take it, and I also think if you don't want it, you should give it to a homeless person.

                      2. re: givemecarbs

                        Would need more information to figure this one out. I'm going to guess that the popovers were provided as an item included with the meal (or coffee or what-have-you) and that they don't let people carry out the leftover popovers because then people would request a fresh basket (or whatever) of popovers so that they could then ask for them to be wrapped to go.

                        1. re: ccbweb

                          When it comes to the bread basket, doesn't everyone know at least one person who always fills their purse with its contents, regardless of policy or propriety?

                          1. re: Caralien

                            Probably most everyone does know such a person, yes.

                            1. re: Caralien

                              yes, but the popovers at NM are not exactly breadbasket items. They serve you only one on a plate, warm from the oven.

                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                  no, at least not the sopapillas I have had, which were fried. see attached link, with a pic of them fresh from the oven. They are like an extremely light dinner roll, almost hollow inside from the amount they rise when they bake. They really need to be served warm as they "deflate" as they cool.


                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                    Popovers and (individual) Yorkshire puddings are closely related. Best when eaten hot from the oven, but hey, if you paid for it, why can't you carry it away? Take a zip lock bag with you and eat cold deflated popovers later if that's what you like! '-)

                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                      Yorkshire Pudding! The last time I made it I was living in New Mexico and could afford a standing rib roast!

                                2. re: Caralien

                                  Filling their purse with bread from the bread basket?
                                  No...I've never known anyone to do that.

                                  1. re: Caralien

                                    In El Paso, I had an elderly friend who did that. "Elderly" meaning her age fell somewhere between my age and God's. She used to not only take home all of the bread (and anything else left) at a restaurant, but would also ask for a doggy bag when she was a dinner guest. Bless her heart, life had slam dunked her from from comfortably well off to abject poverty through divorce late in life. She and her husband lived in San Juan Allende, Mexico, she came home from a trip to NYC to meet with her publisher, found her husband bedding her secretary, picked up the suitcase she was travelling with and went as far as she could on the money she had on hand. Turned out to be El Paso. She died a couple of years ago and I miss her still. She had many redeeming qualities! '-)

                                    When I was a kid, my grandmother used to embarass the life out of me. Didn't matter how upscale of downscale a restaurant was, once we were seated she would dip her napkin (cloth or paper!) in her water glass and wash all of her silverware! I soon learned to head for the ladies room so I wasn't present for her ritual! AND she packed bread and crackers away in her purse too. But oh my, I loved her! She was my most favorite relative, but just had to remember to go to the restroom as soon as we were seated in a restaurant!

                                    I think everyone deserves at least on eccentric friend and relative. Makes life a lot more interesting and helps you polish your ability to love! '-)

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      Thanks for sharing those, C1.

                                      I definitely take leftovers, even bread, even French fries. Depends on if I'm at home or staying in a hotel. We go to great little Italian place in SF that has the BEST tapenade. The first time we had it, the server packed us up a little container of it and some focacia. Made a great snack in our room with cocktails. I hate waste and do not believe that restaurants re-serve leftover bread, tapenades, etc. If they do, they shouldn't.

                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                          What a great, endearing story. I'm with you...everyone deserves an eccentric friend or relative....they're really missed when they're gone, aren't they?
                                          They make life so much more wonderful

                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                            Caroline, I used to have a neighbor like your El Paso neighbor. Not only did she take home leftover food from restaurants, she would also take wads of unused paper napkins if she could. No one said anything bad about her -- she was a Holocaust survivor.

                                            1. re: neverlate

                                              We're all shaped by the twists and turns of our lives. The curious thing is how the same twist can result in different turns. What's more interesting than people?

                                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      AGREED!!! Even if the final consumer is the cat,dog or out of doors birds.Waste is just so irresponsible and offensive to me.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        Sam, ever since Bolivia where we would take leftovers outside, on the flatware, to the poor outside, I don't leave a grain of rice to be thrown out. Great breakfast, leftovers or midnight snack. Shame on bottled water too.

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            while i agree with you in theory, sometimes i can't justify the wasteful packaging that will inevitably be used to box up the few remaining bites of food on my plate - particularly if i'm planning to give it to a homeless person (which i used to do all the time when i lived in NYC...these days, not so much).

                                            many of the local places i frequent package leftovers in reusable containers which i find other uses for at home..and if i remember, i'll sometimes bring one back to the restaurant with me and re-use it to take home the leftovers from that meal. my mom washes them & gives them to her housekeeper, who uses them to pack her kids' school lunches.

                                            the OP asked if boxing your meal says you're cheap...who gives a hoot? if i'm going to eat the rest of it, i'll absolutely take it home - i couldn't care less what others might think of it. the other issue is that i typically order small portions, so i frequently don't have anything left to bring home anyway. steak seems to be the only thing i can't order in a restaurant in a portion size that's sufficiently small for one meal.

                                            anyway, this thread is very timely - i met my folks for dinner last night, and as we were waiting for them to bring us our boxed leftovers, the conversation turned to the subject of my mom's friend. apparently she was taught as a young girl to NEVER eat more than half of what was on her plate! to this day, it doesn't matter what she's having or how small the portion is, she only eats half - and since she & her husband eat out 5 nights a week, she never brings home the leftovers because they wouldn't get eaten. it made me sick just thinking about all that waste!

                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                              yeah but is the "waste" the patrons fault or the establishments? and on a side note, in a country of such great obesity, do we really need to pressure people to eat everything? I would much rather throw a part of a meal away then eat it all and get fat.

                                              1. re: nkeane

                                                it's not about placing blame for the waste of either the food or the packaging. it's about doing our part to minimize wastefulness in any form.

                                                re: your obesity comment, don't get me started - i did my Master's thesis on the relationship of increasing portion sizes to the obesity epidemic in this country, so you're preaching to the choir. however, i feel compelled to point out that this is NOT about "pressure" to eat everything, in fact, one of the benefits of taking home leftovers is that you don't have to either eat it all on the spot or feel guilty about wasting food - it's a compromise that addresses both sides of the issue. and in the case of most restaurant dishes the portions are often too large or calorie-dense to begin with, so you really shouldn't polish them off in one sitting.

                                                as far as your concern about "getting fat" from finishing one meal...well, that's a whole different thread :) but briefly, besides the fact that it's not physiologically possible to "get fat" from one overindulgence, you might also consider ordering smaller portions (e.g. half-portions or appetizers) or sharing a dish with a fellow diner, or occasionally ordering something that's not quite so rich that you think a few extra bites of it will mean you need to buy a larger belt.

                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                  well of course youre not getting fat from 1 meal. but look at it this way, if you over eat by 500 calories at just one meal a week, youll gain almost 8lbs in just 1 year.

                                                  but what if I know im not going to eat it? what if the idea of reheated food 12+ hours later doesnt appeal to me? btw, Im not so idealistic to pay more for a smaller portion just to have the self gratification of not throwing part of it away.......give me the normal size portion and what I dont finish can go on the compost heap.

                                                  btw, does everyone that is so appalled by a half eaten cheeseburger also get irrate about the daily culling of produce at your local megamart? how about the same thing going on at a farmers market(because trust me, a whole lot of stuff goes in the bin at the end of the day). face it, there is going to be waste when it comes to something as perishable as food. Your half a cheesecake isnt a big deal.

                                                  1. re: nkeane

                                                    You ask if we're appalled at the food wasted by markets and stores. I can honestly tell you, at least for myself, that yes I am appalled. That's why I buy "ugly tomatoes" at the farmers market when I'm making something that doesn't need pretty, or the very ripe bananas at the grocery store if I'm making banana bread or restocking the freezer for smoothies. If you want more information about exactly how appalled some of us are at food waste that happens at all levels of the system, check out http://wastedfood.com/

                                                    1. re: nkeane

                                                      You get the math on overeating just one meal a week and how that little bit adds up over the course of time. A little here, a little there and eventually you've got a big result.

                                                      But then you dismiss exactly that reasoning by declaring that the little bit here and the little bit there on the part of individuals doesn't matter because something else will be going on anyhow.

                                                      If each person makes choices about how they buy, order and consume food (not huge changes, just a little here and a little there) it adds up.

                                                      I can't, by myself, prevent all of the food waste going on in my town. I can alter how much I, personally, waste. If I'm eating out I can do that by taking home my leftovers and making use of them or I can order differently or I can finish all of what I order. If finishing all of what I order would be unhealthy then I'm left with take it home or order differently.

                                                      The answer to your question in your second paragraph "what if I know I'm not going to eat it? What if the idea of reheated food 12+ hours later doesn't appeal to me?" is order differently.

                                                      1. re: ccbweb

                                                        on the surface it may seem like the same reasoning in both of those examples but it really isnt. When you are deciding to eat or not eat something, you are the only input into the equation. When you are trying to cut down on waste in your own life, so that there is less waste in the world, you are but 1 input of millions(billions maybe). You as an individual are much less effectual when it comes to global food waste then you are about the size of your thighs.

                                                        Also, i cant get over the feeling that taking my food to-go is more wasteful then not. Oil to make the plastic container, oil to make the electricity to run the plant they are made in, oil to transport them to the restaurant.......it isnt just waste vs. non waste.

                                                        related tangent: is it more wasteful to not eat a piece of streak that was produced/transported through the Macro agricultural machine, or a locally produced, organic head of bib lettuce? where do we stop questioning ourselves?

                                                  2. re: nkeane

                                                    But if you are ordering a regular meal then you're going to get the same size as anyone else. Maybe they should order a half size.

                                                    1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                      well, that's my theory too - i do it all the time myself in establishments that are willing to accommodate the request (and yes, if there's a fee tacked onto the half-charge, i'll pay extra for the convenience) - but not everyone goes for the idea, or would ever even think to do it.

                                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              I concur..... food waste is terrible. Whether it is consumed byme or the dog or some homeless person... at least it is not wasted.

                                              Even better.... I think I will bring my own tupperware and bypass the disposable boxes and styrofoams.

                                            3. When I see someone leave a large amount of food behind, I always wonder just how bad it tastes! I do normally take home leftovers. Well, unless I'm not going straight home and the food would spoil before I get it to a refrigerator. Wish I had room in my car for one of those car refrigerators. '-)

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                Caroline, I have one of those so called car refrigerators. They have no condensers, just a fan so they only cool to about 10 degrees below the ambient temp.

                                                I take leftovers home. I keep insulated bags in mt car for things like that and for keeping cold or frozen groceries in when I have a number of stops to make. Indiana summers can be quite hot and humid. Those insulated bags are great.

                                                1. re: Candy

                                                  For me it depends on what it is, hunk of nice meat or piece of chicken, yes box and eat later but something like tacos, burger and fries, no because they do reheat well to me...and if I have a bunch lelt because I didn't like it....well, then I never box.

                                                  I do try and curb waste at places that serve GIANT amounts of food by telling them upfront, "Look charge me the same but don't bring me two chicken breasts, I won't eat it and I don't want to waste it" not always easy to get them to understand as I think they are worried that you are going to want a reduction on the check, (talking about chains like Islands here....they have a low carb plate that I love but they give you two huge chicken breasts or two giant burger patties...just need one)

                                                  1. re: Candy

                                                    I live in the Dallas area, where internal car temps can easily get to 125 degrees in the sun while parked for much of the year, it is always a good policy to keep a small cooler in the car, or at least one of those insulated bags that you get from the discount stores. It can keep the food at about the same temp that you were eating at for a short period of time. I use them for cold groceries too.

                                                    If we know in advance that we will be carrying food home, such as when we make a 30 mile run to the neighborhood with the best Chinese Roast Pork or other dishes, we plan ahead and take cold packs or ice.

                                                    1. re: Candy

                                                      I also have a car cooler/heater that plugs into the power source. It was a gift, and I I've been wary of using it because I thought it might drain the battery. How long have you left yours plugged in and running?

                                                      1. re: Candy

                                                        I often find myself in a situation where I'm going to be trapsing about the city for the next several hours. Bringing along a doggy bag is often impractical in those situations.

                                                    2. Depending on local regulations, food may be boxed by the customer at the table or back in the kitchen (the idea is that served food should not be returned to the kitchen due to possible contamination from the guest). Some places still take it back anyway, but I've had to learn how to quickly box my own food at the table when taking it back to the kitchen wasn't allowed.

                                                      At TJ's in Brooklyn, we always had food to go because they served so much food on their fixed price menu--half of each entree and desserts to go, without fail, when dining as a couple. It was practical for us to have leftover steak, duck, pork chops, spinach...all which were fine reheated or eaten cold the following day (they were located 1 block away from our apartment).

                                                      We've gotten better at not ordering so much food because the servings are so large everywhere and we don't want to waste food. I'm not a big fan of rice and beans, so I request my Mexican dishes be served without food I wouldn't eat or take home for shame (or half noodles in Pho because I really can't eat that many noodles and they don't taste good reheated).

                                                      There's another critical CH post about non-trees, diners who order appetizers instead of full entrees (with the premise that diners are cheap, not overwhelmed by too much food).

                                                      1. wait - there's food left over?

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: thew

                                                          True, this isn't a problem I personally encounter very often! :)

                                                        2. Agree with Miss Needle's option of giving it to someone homeless.

                                                          givemecarbs' story about Neiman Marcus makes me realize how that urban legend about N-M charging an unsuspecting customer thousands of dollars for the N-M cookie recipe must have arisen.

                                                          1. I box. Especially when I go back to Texas the portions are so huge I start the meal by dividing everything in two - half for now and half for later. If you leave it on your plate it will be thrown away. If you enjoyed your meal I see no reason not to enjoy it a second time at home.

                                                            1. Of course I take it along if I'm going to be able to keep it safely and am not facing a hotel room without a fridge. That is, in the US I do - never tried it in Europe, where I understand it's Just Not Done, even though I had a place to stow it. I have no qualms about letting the restaurant box it, and feel like their handing me a box to DIY has a faint air of "Don't bother me with that sort of thing". (I know other folks feel otherwise.)

                                                              However, I'd certainly disagree with Karl S about pasta. Some of the best frittatas (frittati?) I've ever made have been from the previous night's pasta leftovers.

                                                              1. This is definately a "stateside" tradition. No-one here in the UK would dream of asking for a doggy bag. Then again, our portion sizes are no where near the size of those in the US!

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: jenjenjen

                                                                  I don't have extensive experience with restaurants all over the UK, only in London and Edinburgh but my wife and I certainly left several places with boxes of leftovers and the restaurants were completely equipped to package the food up and we had the experience of both asking the waiter to wrap it up and having the waiter ask us if we'd like to take the leftovers with us.

                                                                  (No, these weren't chain restaurants, just random places.)

                                                                  1. re: jenjenjen

                                                                    I don't know, jenjenjen. I'm finding portion sizes in the UK to be well beyond human capacity and well close to those in the US. As I find wastefulness more reprehensible than this 'unthinkable' option of the doggybag, I am thinking about getting up the nerve to ask for things wrapped up. I've started to see others do it as well, so I might be next.)

                                                                    1. re: jenjenjen

                                                                      This is a perennial topic. In Europe (continental, at least) the idea of a doggie bag is basically unheard-of - but portions are generally more reasonable, so you're much less likely to have leftovers than in the US. Portion sizes have been growing in the UK of late, so it doesn't surprise me to hear that some restaurants are now making them available there. Don't try asking for one in Paris though!

                                                                      1. re: jenjenjen

                                                                        In my five years in the UK, I've very rarely seen anyone take leftovers home. Among the people I know, it's just not done. Mainly I think it's the fact that, like jenjenjen said, customers don't do it. Most restaurants seem to do take-out, so I'm sure they'd be equipped to box up your leftovers, but I've never heard a restaurant offer, and no English person I know would dream of asking for it.

                                                                        Re portion sizes, I don't think there's such a noticeable difference between the UK and the US. English people love to talk about that, but I wonder where they're eating when they go to the US!

                                                                      2. leftovers are one of those great joys in my life, a small ray of light in an otherwise dreary world. hehe. ok, just kidding. but i friggin love leftovers and i don't care if anyone thinks i'm cheap. hell, i'll take their leftovers, too.

                                                                        75% of the time, i have leftovers because i'm smaller than average and eat less in one sitting than average (tho probably more than many people, in aggregate, with my 8 meals a day scheme). my biggest concern is how to do this ecologically. it pains me to throw out those heavy #6 or #8 plastic containers, but i have far too many than i can use as tupperware already and my city does not recycle them. i'm wondering if it would be gauche to bring my own tupperware for leftovers.

                                                                        97% of the time i eat my own leftovers for breakfast or lunch (sometimes after dreaming about them all night!) 1% of the time, my SO eats them. 1% of the time, my dog gets them (only if it's low salt, sugar, not very spiced, etc..). 1% of the time, i hand it directly to someone who looks like they might want it. i don't like leaving it around on trashcans because so often, the big, fat nyc rats get to them before people can.

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: cimui

                                                                          You're right about leaving it around the trashcans and the rats. That's why I'll carry the damn stuff with me until I see some homeless people and then leave it around the can. I don't want to confront them directly because you never know how they're going to react. I can picture some people getting offended by me offering them my leftovers.

                                                                          And unless you're physically there to monitor who eats the leftover food, I think leaving food around for animals has the potential to cause a lot of problems -- ie. rats, bears, etc.

                                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                            ah, right you are. i do tend to more or less know the homeless folks in my neighborhood(s). there are a lot of regulars, so the risk is less great on my part.

                                                                            i did have the sort of entertaining experience once where someone asked me what i had in my doggie bag, i offered it to them, and they refused because they were grossed out by my meal (fairly innocuous indian vegetarian). beggars can sometimes be choosers, i guess. :)

                                                                            1. re: cimui

                                                                              Ha ha. I also sometimes wonder if they would appreciate my more "funkier" leftovers. Guess by not confronting them directly, I avoid rejection.

                                                                          2. re: cimui

                                                                            LMAO sometimes I wonder about that... thinking my dog would absolutely love that meal off someone's plate.

                                                                            1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                              forget about dogs. my SO's brother -- quite wealthy, mind you, and far from frugal -- will solicit everyone's leftovers after a dinner out with friends or family. he used to try to grab my leftovers, too, but after i tackled him to the ground the first time, he got the message. ;)

                                                                              1. re: cimui

                                                                                LMAOROTF people really do that? too funny. Thanks for the tickle lol

                                                                                I don't think I'll feel bad about taking my food home anymore.

                                                                          3. When I came to Connecticut, from the Dallas area, I felt that many more people here took advantage of "to go", "take out" or "doggy bags" (whichever you prefer). In Texas, a doggy bag usually meant just that for me; a bone for my dog.
                                                                            I don't know if the portions are larger here than in Texas (is that possible?), or if it is just considered common, and acceptable, practice here. The heat in Texas sure does discourage you from the practice if you're not heading straight home!
                                                                            I don't mind some food being reheated. Some of it gets better. Some of can be converted into a good, new dish. I don't like to waste food.
                                                                            The biggest complaint is overly large serving sizes when we are out of town or on the road. Man, I hate to see that food wasted. Once, I did leave some in and area where I knew homeless people gathered.

                                                                            1. I take leftovers home quite often and usually do not have to ask. The restaurant offers, even at extremely high end places.

                                                                              Sometimes they box it; sometimes I do. Usually it's the former. I've been told it has to do with board of health regulations. In some places they require customers to box their own food.

                                                                              1. My dear friend,who passed away last summer, dined out often with friends at the best restaurants. Since generally neither she or her dining companions wanted the leftovers, she always had the leftover protein boxed up in one container for my dogs. We miss her a lot.

                                                                                1. a pet peeve of mine being a Brit and not used to doggie bags but what about the waste of the styrofoam boxes or foil containers they give you with plastic lids and then a plastic bag to take it home in??

                                                                                  I only take home if i am REALLY going to eat it next day. If it will be disgusting such as a dressed salad I don't bother to waste the restaurant's container. Or it's really for the dogs and I tell them to wrap it in something cheap because it's for the dogs.

                                                                                  13 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: smartie

                                                                                    I always have a pang of guilt when I take home a "doggie bag". I frequently have leftovers and don't want to waste the food but I cringe at the Styrofoam and plastic packaging which is not recyclable in my area. Has anyone figure out a solution to this problem? I feel embarrassed when I take out my own containers since I never see anyone else to it. What do other people do?

                                                                                    1. re: Fiona

                                                                                      why should what others do make you feel bad. do what works for you as long as you are not hurting anyone else

                                                                                      1. re: Fiona

                                                                                        especially if you're just taking 1/2 a sandwich, or a chunk of protein home, you can just ask your server for a piece of foil. most restaurants have foil lying around in back. though the staff is trained to put things in large containers because that's what most customers want, they can sure wrap your stuff in foil for you-- then you have minimal packaging that's recyclable and maybe even reusable, and it's one less styro.

                                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                          Great idea about asking for the item wrapped simply in foil. I'll try this next time. Thank you!

                                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                            I always ask for a piece of foil or the smallest container they have. A lot of times a soup container is just the right size for my chunk of meat or whatever.

                                                                                          2. re: Fiona

                                                                                            I've only seen someone bring in their own containers once (about 3 years ago) and I have to admit that I was a little shocked. But the more I thought about it, the more I approved. Just like more and more people are taking their own shopping bags to the grocery, I think more and more people are going to start taking their own containers to restaurants. It might take awhile to catch on and initially you might get the look, but I think it might catch on. (hell, even my 75 yr old parents are recycling now! who'd a thunk?)

                                                                                            And personally, I don't think there is much of a stigma associated with doggie bags in the U.S., it's pretty standard now. I do agree with another poster that there are times when it's not appropriate (business dinners, 1st date...) but in most cases, the restaurants don't even bat an eye. Besides, frugal is IN.

                                                                                            1. re: Fiona

                                                                                              There's a whole separate (long) thread about people who bring their own takeout containers to restaurants. People seem to come down firmly on one side or the other - it's either perfectly fine, why not or crass, possibly gross, and weird.

                                                                                              1. re: Fiona

                                                                                                I was kinda embrassed at first but I thought about all the styrofoam out there. I carry opened tupperware in a nice looking shopping bag. When I need to fill it. I just take it out and fill it in 2 seconds put the lid on and back into the shopping bag. I don't have ask for a container and I am happy to use a reususable container.

                                                                                                1. re: Fiona

                                                                                                  It's not quite the same, but similar... The dining halls at the university I work for started a program this year that allows students to buy reusable take out containers. In the past, if a student wanted to use his/her meal plan for lunch or dinner, but didn't have time to eat in the dining hall, he/she would get a styrofoam box and fill it up. Now students have the option to buy a $10 plastic container. They fill it up and go. Next time they want a meal to-go, they bring back the dirty container and swap it for a clean one. There are plans in the works to allow students to swap freshly-dirty containers for a token so they can get a clean container when they need it without toting around a days-old dirty one. The styrofoam option is still around for those who don't want to pay $10, but my understanding is that the reusable program is pretty popular.

                                                                                                  In the next few years I can see some of the chain places, like Applebee's, offering something similar, where you can buy a restaurant-branded container to put your leftovers in. Almost like refilling a to-go coffee cup at 7-eleven...

                                                                                                  1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                                    i was going to bring up something similar. my college campus let students bring their own bowls for salad to campus dining halls that had only disposable containers. you could "tare" (account for the weight of the bowl/container), go fill up the bowl, and then subtract out the bowl's weight for items that were sold by weight. and you got a discount if you bought coffee in an "enviro mug" purchased from the school (which were really cute... i still have mine from way back when).

                                                                                                    mpjmph, sounds like your university has a really fantastic system set up. i can't believe they even wash your dirty containers for you!

                                                                                                    1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                                      That is one of the better ideas I've heard in a long time. I'm going to suggest it to the folks at my school.

                                                                                                      1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                                        That's brilliant!

                                                                                                        The restaurant Just Salads does something similar--if you bring back your salad bowl, you get two free toppings on your salad.

                                                                                                        full disclosure: my company does business with Just Salads, but I have no personal stake in them.

                                                                                                        1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                                          this seems similar to the growler issue at brewpubs. They'll sell you a growler for $8-10, but you can't use them elsewhere. A bit of a bummer if you're at a pub which doesn't sell growlers, or you collect a few on travels but then have to empty the trunk from what you're carrying. We currently have one--from DogfishHead (DE), which is in its own neoprene case to keep the bottle from exploding in the trunk.

                                                                                                          I would actually be happier with bring your own container and having that acceptable.

                                                                                                    2. >>What do they do with it when they take it away to box?

                                                                                                      They put it in the box for you to take home. What do you think they do with it?

                                                                                                      If I am served a meal that is very large, I usually decide before I start eating how much I am going to leave behind, to box up to go. I don't need a 1,500 calorie dinner, and I love having something yummy to look forward to the next day.

                                                                                                      I usually intend to keep the leftovers for myself, but I frequently give them to homeless people. If I see someone asking for change, I will offer them my doggie bag, and they are, in my experience, always happy to take it.

                                                                                                      It really upsets me when I am traveling and I have no way to either store my leftovers or give them to someone else. I was eating at a fancy steakhouse on someone's expense account, and the smallest steak was still enormous. There was no way I could eat even half of it. And since we were dining in rooftop restaurant of the hotel where we were staying, and it was late at night, I had no way to give my leftovers to a homeless person. I felt so guilty about sending a huge piece of steak to the trash.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: manraysky

                                                                                                        Yeah one would hope. However no one can figure out two different waitress from different resturants told me that same exact thing.

                                                                                                      2. I often don't have a box to take home. If the food is really good, I tend to eat it all. Mostly, it's not, and I leave it.

                                                                                                        1. I love leftovers and doggie backs from restaurants (unless it's something that specifically doesn't work like dressed salads). I also find the waste of food irresponsible.

                                                                                                          I also admit that there is a stigma attached to taking food away, leaving a time and place to forgo the pleasure. I'm going to avoid the snare of mentioning first dates since that will probably set some people off, but anything that has to do with business meetings shouldn't also involve doggie bags.

                                                                                                          Wherein lies the stigma? Partly because it openly acknowledges the importance of food and in particular restaurant food. Bringing it home means that eating out is enough of a treat that you don't want to give up a morsel. Also, we seem to live in our virtual neighborhoods created by television. TV as a lens of social life involves food often, but doesn't show eating. People take one bite of their food, act out the scene and leave. Occasionally it shows people taking the last bite, but much more often it shows only the first, since it's more decorative that way.

                                                                                                          We seem caught between two images: that of "good value" (read huge portions) and that of stylish living where food is as much an accessory as jewelry. Neither object should receive too much attention on screen.

                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: thinks too much

                                                                                                            You realize that everyone can read what you wrote, right. So writing that you're not going to mention first dates...well, not so effective.

                                                                                                            Beyond that, I have to write that I don't understand at all what you're trying to explain in terms of a stigma. It would seem that any stigma would be of the sort that someone taking leftovers home is somehow "cheap." I don't believe that's generally true any longer save for someone who tries to take home things they haven't purchased.

                                                                                                            1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                              ccb, *smile* When I said "mention," I thought I was expressing that the thought had occurred to me, but that I wasn't intending to open that particular can of worms. This board often discusses food policies on dates on this board. I should have used the word "expound." Guess I'm going to have to both mention and expound.

                                                                                                              I think you do understand that I am implying that taking food home does imply cheap in some circles. But as I think more on it (a flaw of mine, as I acknowledge) it implies more of a lack of focus. I'll probably get flamed for this in Chowhound circles, but there are occasions when food is involved is only incidental. The lunch portion of a job interview is one example though I stand by my opinion that doggie bags and business meals shouldn't mix. Yes, it implies cheap because you (the non-specific "you") probably didn't pay for it; it went on a business account. But it also communicates more. In taking food to go, you are pulling attention to the idea that you were not giving full attention to the matter at hand: the business part of the business meal. Food gets involved in business meetings for many different reasons. Naming a few: to get people in a more relaxed mode, to observe people's social abilities, to impress clients.

                                                                                                              I'll also toss in first dates (I told you I would), since the main reason for a first date is to get to know another human being better. Hopefully for a chowhound, you'll find that you can talk about the food you're eating, but hopefully as human beings you might talk about something else. In addition, since a date is rife with possibilities, one might not want to be saddled with a small paper bag for an unspecified period of time or round of activities.

                                                                                                              1. re: thinks too much

                                                                                                                Totally understand what you're talking about. While on this board, there are probably many people who think that food is first and foremost in life, I don't see it that way. As in the examples you have provided, food does play a secondary role. I actually remember watching some dating show where the girl got totally PO'ed with the guy because he spent the dinner date intellectualizing his food instead of getting to know her.

                                                                                                            2. re: thinks too much

                                                                                                              ttm, I’ve noticed the same thing when it comes to eating in movies and tv, the characters take one bite then leave...it’s subtle, but it happens all the time.

                                                                                                              I box, unless the food isn’t worth it. The only time I might hesitate is when I am being treated to a meal by someone other than family or a close friend. In that case, unless they do it first, I won’t box and will make sure I eat everything I ordered.

                                                                                                              1. re: cuccubear

                                                                                                                of course they take one bite and leave.... how many times and from how many angles do you think that take was filmed? If they had to eat an entire meal each time there would not be an actor on big screen or small who weighed less than 300 pounds.

                                                                                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                  Each time they shoot, the caterers have to plate an entirely new meal, for the actor to take the one bite over and over again. The actors could just as easily take the one bite of an artistically arranged half-full plate. Or eat the second to last bite of a plate, that has been appropriately dressed. But they typically film only the first bite, which states that the actress shouldn't be interested in what is on her plate.

                                                                                                                  1. re: thinks too much

                                                                                                                    Or that it's not the crux of the scene, but a prop.

                                                                                                            3. Several years ago I was at a wedding lunch (250-300 people) and when the groom's grandmother came in she had one of those big shopping bags with handles on it. Everyone wondered what kind of surprise grandma had in that bag.

                                                                                                              Wouldn't you know it, as the meal ended and it was time to leave, grandma pulled the bag out from under the table and took a huge stack of styrofoam clamshells out, stating in a loud voice.... "take the leftovers, the're paid for"

                                                                                                              57 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                I wish that I could have brought home the left overs from my brother's wedding. There was soo much food and I was just a lowly student.

                                                                                                                Going along with the stories of leaving left overs for homeless but not wanting to confront them... When I was in Amsterdam I had a huge order of frites that I was munching on. Homeless woman came up asking for money to buy food. I offered her my frites instead and with a look of disguist she swore and said that she didn't want the frites and wanted the money for drugs. Same night I saw a lot of homeless people going up to the various food stands to ask for food. I was surprised to see that most of the time they turned around and fed it to their pet dogs.

                                                                                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                  clap clap clap good for her:)

                                                                                                                  Was this a Chinese banquet ?

                                                                                                                  1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                    it was indeed..... and she was definitely a Chinese matriarch

                                                                                                                    1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                      wait a minute... what's that supposed to mean?
                                                                                                                      Chinese are stereotypically... resourceful?

                                                                                                                      then again.
                                                                                                                      I'm Chinese.
                                                                                                                      and we boxed up ALL the food at my brother's wedding.

                                                                                                                      no one wanted to take it (that's the "saving face" part),
                                                                                                                      so everyone heaped it onto me, because i'm the student.

                                                                                                                      1. re: dumpycactus

                                                                                                                        Uhhh..........well it's true is it not? It's not good to be wasteful. My mother's Chinese and every time she sees a stray rice on my plate She's telling me "Lup Lup Gi Sun Foo"

                                                                                                                        And yes she asked the waiters to bring out containers so everyone could take left overs from one of the banquets. And it's not like you are scrapping people's plates. At Chinese tables you have your dishes on the lazy susan in the middle.

                                                                                                                        I'd say anything to avoid waste is a positive thing so yeah... resourceful is a good word. I just thought about the banquets when Kamukiman brought that up. Which brings another question up. What do other cultures do? Ie if you have a large Italian or Ukranian wedding what do people do with the excess food?

                                                                                                                        1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                          Chewy, my grandmother used to say the same thing to me! I hate to waste food and almost always end up taking half of my food home. I am almost never able to finish a full order at a restaurant.

                                                                                                                          1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                            chewy... a translation for us round eyes please?

                                                                                                                            as far as resourceful, its not the most common word used in Honolulu, but its a good one. Frugal perhaps, yeah.. that's it, fugal. In any event, no derogatory implications were intended.

                                                                                                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                              "Eat all your rice. Don't you know that there are starving children in America?

                                                                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                LOL! During WWII, my moher used to harangue me about my starving cousins in England whenever I didn't want to shine my plate. One day I'd had enough and asked her for a box so we could send my food to them. Got in trouble for being a smart-ass. <sigh> And still had to eat it.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                  What? There's starving children in America? Which America are you talking about?

                                                                                                                                  Is there not a national epidemic of child obesity in America?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                                    It's really hard to tell online: you are kidding, right?

                                                                                                                                    1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                                                      yes about the first part

                                                                                                                                      no about the national epidemic part. Child obesity anywhere is no laughing matter. Neither is starvation. Uhm back to the boxes.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                                        Ok, phew, I felt I had to check. Yes, none of it is a laughing matter at all.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                                          There are PLENTY of hungry children in America.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                                                                            Thanks, we just did that. The all caps was particularly helpful, though.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                    I dunno maybe DimsumGirl better help me out here.

                                                                                                                                    A literal translation is "each spec of rice has been laboriously gleaned."

                                                                                                                                    The meaning I get from is.. if you knew how back breaking it is to get rice then you would not waste it.

                                                                                                                                    Anyone Chinese wanna help me out with this?

                                                                                                                                    1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                                      A literal translation is "grain grain each hardship" (粒粒皆辛苦) but yours makes more sense! It's from a poem that most Chinese people probably know by heart. Several translations here:

                                                                                                                                      1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                                                                        Yes your literal translation makes more sense. Thanks for the link :D wow we learn something new everyday. Thanks DeppityDawg

                                                                                                                            2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                              I had a party years ago for 350 people at a Four Seasons...
                                                                                                                              It was not 'sit down' and one side of the room was food was for adults....the other side of the room was for the children in attendance.
                                                                                                                              The party lasted for several hours and when it came time for people to be able to take food home the hotel would not allow the food to be taken off the premises....
                                                                                                                              It was some sort of policy for health regulation. I was shocked and disappointed because I'd paid for the food and I felt I should be able to do whatever I wanted with the food.
                                                                                                                              To this day I wonder what they'd done with all the leftover food...piles of shrimp, duck, filet mignon and every type of side dish and dessert imaginable.

                                                                                                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                That's terrible! If half the food was left, did they take half off your bill? I would have been really ticked!

                                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                  Yeah....it's been years and this thread reminds me I'm still wondering what happened to the food!
                                                                                                                                  I stayed in the hotel that night and remember going to valet the next morning to get my car. What appeared to be the same giant chocolate cookies that were on the kids' table were being given in little bags to guests leaving ...the guests had nothing to do with the party.

                                                                                                                                2. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                  i think the service staff get the untouched left overs. ??

                                                                                                                                  1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                                    well if the service staff did get the untouched leftovers they had a feast that night because we didn't hold back on the quality or quantity of food.
                                                                                                                                    I was really blown away by that though.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: latindancer


                                                                                                                                    To be fair according to the description this was a buffet for 350 people. You paid for food during the time agreed to and the people, not for the leftovers. If this were a sitdown dinner and there was mashed potatos left in the kitchen would you expect them for take-home?

                                                                                                                                    Jfood does not think they did anything wrong.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                        In my experience, "You've got to be kidding!" doesn't really advance the discussion.

                                                                                                                                        At first reading I thought jfood's opinion was off base as well. But after mulling it over for a while I don't know that the hotel was in the wrong. Is it part of their contract to provide 350 take-away containers for their guest? Do they even have 350 containers? Also, if it's truly a health code issue than you can't really blame the hotel.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                          There's a health code taking away left overs??? What would that be?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                                            I didn't introduce the idea that it was a health code violation to take away food, latindancer stated in her post that, "It was some sort of policy for health regulation."

                                                                                                                                        2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                          Why do you think jfood is kidding?

                                                                                                                                          Why does someone think that they contract with a restaurant or hotel to provide enough food and beverage for a gathering for a set number of hours and then all of the leftovers are theirs? What about the booze and soft drinks, they go home with the customer as well?

                                                                                                                                          Absolutely not.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                            In this particular case, the caterer/restaurant/whatever agreed on price ahead of time and then provided the amount of food they could for said price. To refuse taking the surplus of food away that was suppled for the agreed amount of money is, quite simply, fraud. I've never seen nor heard of a contract for a "catered affair" that says the caterer agrees to supply food for all for a set length of time. In my experience it is always always always for a pre-agreed upon menu. They should not have been denied what they paid for.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                              So what would you do if you found yourself in the same situation? The same thing or something different?

                                                                                                                                              1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                                                Well, if I knew "then" what I know "now", I would clarify before hiring who gets the leftovers. But since this is a hypothetical, I would certainly talk to the manager, try to get him/her to see things my way, and if that if that failed to bring the food my way, then I would make everyone I possibly could aware of this caterer's policy, hopefully costing the caterer a great deal of money.

                                                                                                                                                When you pay "X" amount of dollars for food, and the caterer supplies you with "X" amount of food, the food is yours. Basic contract law.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                  I don't necessarily agree with that. I worked at a big hotel and for big buffets, like for 350, we wouldn't have specific amounts of food listed on the contract (e.g. X # of trays of meat, etc). Just lists of what foods would be on the buffet and how many people it would be for. If the buffet ran out of something, another tray was put out, even if there was a chance that no one would touch it. There was no $X for X amount of food. It was $X to feed X people. So the leftovers weren't theirs.

                                                                                                                                                  Untouched (or minimally touched) food would go to the staff cafeteria. And their kitchen would turn it into some marvelous meals.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Sooeygun

                                                                                                                                                    As I said in a previous post, these things should be clarified up front so there is no misunderstanding or hard feelings later.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                      It's a good thing to consider so thanks for sharing. I'd put it on my list of things to do when planning banquets.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                        jfood is glad to see after "you've got to be kidding me", "quite simply, fraud" and "basic contract law" you agree that jfood is not so wrong.

                                                                                                                                                        jfood has never never never seen a restaurant venue catered affair where the contract says they will supply x pounds of chicken or y pounds of steak. it is always always always we will provide the following menu for an agreed number of people.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                          Over the years I have seen many catering contracts that were very specific.
                                                                                                                                                          Finger food "x" number at "y" size/weight each,meat entree buffet or carving station also quite specific/detailed to weight quantity.Most people are walked through the quatity /cost per person when writing an event contract.How they intend to use the info is up to them.I do agree all must be agreed upfront.One common issue is ; I said 11 bottles of wine ,you poured 13.How to handle this?? prevent it.Get a signature for extras or agree on pay for "empties" in advance or "own" the beverages if the local regulations allow.
                                                                                                                                                          The boiler plate of my F & B contracts has 7 distinct options as guidelines while working through exact final menu/cost per person and item also conforming to local regulation.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                            Well, "not so wrong? is a qualitative thing, Jay. But I have learned some things from this thread.

                                                                                                                                                            First off, I now have a very jaded view of site-catered affairs. How much of the food presented at one occasion has been "recycled' from another? I have a lot of food allergies and a compromised immune system, so for me, the new information I've gained here limits my food choices at such affairs to things that have been prepared exclusively for that specific occasion and therefore cannot be "recycled." I guess that means things such as wedding cakes, and skip the shrimp cornucopias... <sigh>

                                                                                                                                                            It also means that should I or mine ever find ourselves in a position to hold another catered affair, then my first choice would be to hire a hall and hire an "outside" caterer who will not expect to take anything away except empty pans and dishes.

                                                                                                                                                            Or, should we have to deal with on-site catering, such as hotels and such, ask questions ahead of time. Clarify what happens to excess food. Maybe even see if we can work it into the contract that any excess food is donated to a mission or halfway house or other worthy institution that helps others. I can't see just sitting by and letting any organization keep "recycling" food for their profit. But I am now very very jaded about such catering, whether from the Waldorf Astoria or Motel 6. I don't want to contract for "used food." The point being, I will admit to being ego-centric and wouldn't mind "my" food passing on to someone else's part as much as I would hate having the food at my party come from someone else's! No thanks. Doesn't matter how you dress it up, that's "dumpster diving!"

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                              I haven't ready every post very closely but did I miss the post where someone has accused a caterer of "recycling" food for profit?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                                                I was wondering the the same. I don't think a caterer using the extra food from a banquet to feed their staff is the same as "recycling."

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: manraysky

                                                                                                                                                                  This is in reply to you, manraysky, and KTinNYC... I haven't reread every reply in this thread and I don't know if I misread something here or correctly read a comment in another thread. Trying to keep on track with a remodel going on around me that is falling farther and farther behind with every passing day is.... ummm... "distracting" if not "grumpifying"! :-(

                                                                                                                                                                  So I'll back off enough to say I would absolutely insist on everything being spelled out in the contract. It's the ONLY way to fly '-)

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: manraysky

                                                                                                                                                                    We would sometimes have excess trays that hadn't gone out to the buffet that would be put on on a similar buffet (or a salad bar in a restaurant outlet, etc) the same day, but the key here was they hadn't gone out into the public yet. Anything that had been out in public would either be trashed or sent to the cafeteria.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Sooeygun

                                                                                                                                                                      ? was it " Sold" TWICE ? A BIT GREASY ME THINKS !!!!!!

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: lcool

                                                                                                                                                                        No, it wasn't 'sold twice'. As I said in a previous post, a lot of our buffets were on a per head basis. So, not 'greasy' at all.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                  Caroline 1
                                                                                                                                                                  BRAVA ,you read the industry better than most.I would love to have you for a client,and more like you.
                                                                                                                                                                  THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: lcool

                                                                                                                                                                    Of course there are unethical caterers, restos, etc. Just like there are unethical anything else. RE-serving for lack of a better term would be highly unethical and unsanitary. USING UNUSED items that were also ordered by another party is not. It's sensible and cost effective.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                    Thanks for telling jfood that items of opinion are qualitative cee, never woulda figured that one out.

                                                                                                                                                                    Wrt the "recycled" food silliness expressed, if the Smiths contract for a buffet which includes lasagne and strip steaks for 40 people and have 50 steaks and four containers of lasagne ready for the party. and in the end everyone wanted steak and only 2 containers of lasagne were heated and left the kitchen. Now the jones have the same contract for later that day and many of their guests were veggies and the blew through the four containers of lasagne and needed more so the kitchen grabbed one of the unused and uncooked Smith lasagnes. Is that recycling? jfood does not believe so if the smiths did not contract for "4 conatiners on lasagne."

                                                                                                                                                                    No different than jfood ordering a dish without the individual hazlenut souffle and thinking the kitchen should throw it out and not serve "jfood's souffle" to another patron.

                                                                                                                                                                    Now wrt to you immunities. If because of a couple of posts on a food blog you now take the data you have gathered over the last 80+ years then you need a cup of herb tea. Does all of a sudden all the buffets, weddings and hotel catered events mean nothing? If you have successfully navigated all those meals without health issues isn;t that better data than some disgruntled employee who posted on Chowhound.

                                                                                                                                                                    Hey in the future you want to go through the hassel of a hall rental and a caterer rental and then the table/chair/+ rentals, you will only do that once and find it is a brain-cramping as your remodeling.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                      jfood, why do you presume that Caroline would find party planning a brain-cramping hassle? There are some competant, experienced caterers out there who routinely handle rental and staffing details, and as for the food, anything's negotiable. If Caroline wants the leftovers donated to a nonprofit, the catererer should be willing to deal with it according to health regulations. This takes extra work, extra time, packaging which client will pay for. The caterer should negotiate extra money for staff meals because there won't be any leftovers. They could be fed take-out from another source.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Sooeygun

                                                                                                                                                                "If the buffet ran out of something, another tray was put out, even if there was a chance that no one would touch it. There was no $X for X amount of food. It was $X to feed X people. So the leftovers weren't theirs.

                                                                                                                                                                That's exactly right. The buffet is supposed to look full and ample, right up to the end.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: manraysky

                                                                                                                                                                  Thank you Sooeygum and manraysky, these 2 post makes it very clear why a buffet diner has no right to left-overs.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Sooeygun

                                                                                                                                                                  I worked for a huge hotel as well as pretty exclusive clubs and that's my experience as well. The charge is per head. There is an INCREDIBLE waste. It is also my experience that most hosts don't expect their guests, particularly in that number to have things wrapped. Yes the staff may chow down. So WHAT? you're talking about maybe some poor refugee bus boy or dishwasher who makes minimum wage. Better than wasting it. Or, maybe they did what some of my colleagues and I did once after a holiday buffet: Pushed an entire rack, loaded with food, including whole hams and turkeys and things like that down to the loading dock and into an alley where homeless hung out, well, LIVED actually (Lower Wacker Dr., Chicago for those familiar). Did our hearts good.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                                                                                                    Bravo (brava?) to you! I just hope you sliced the meats up first.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: BobB

                                                                                                                                                                      Oh, I think there was a stray utensil or two ;) Maybe even some napkins!
                                                                                                                                                                      We also got busted on camera, but the security guy, feeling the way we did, chose to ignore it. This was during the last (??) big recession, early '90's.

                                                                                                                                                                      There are food banks practically BEGGING for donations here now. Knowing what I know about that kind of waste makes me ill. There are related health codes, true, but nonetheless....

                                                                                                                                                                      yeah yeah yeah, OT, okay.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                        " If this were a sitdown dinner and there was mashed potatos left in the kitchen would you expect them for take-home?"

                                                                                                                                                        When I worked in catering, it amazed me how often people thought just that.

                                                                                                                                                  2. I regularly get food to go, unless it is something that won’t store well overnight. (And that can, in fact, be another consideration when ordering.) When traveling it can be difficult or impossible to reheat or properly store food and then we don’t, but otherwise it isn’t an issue for us. Often the portions offered in the U.S. are just far too huge for me to want to eat. In fact, I am often amazed at how what seemed like a fairly tiny amount on the restaurant plate suddenly becomes a reasonable lunch on my own dishes.

                                                                                                                                                    p.s. I am happy to have them box - if I didn't trust teh staff w/ my food I wouldn't go out. I don't hate it when they bring me a box but it definitely doesn't add to the ambience.

                                                                                                                                                    1. I too was brought up to waste not. That generally means plate cleaning in my family, but my parents will take the occasional box home if there's anything leftover.
                                                                                                                                                      Living in NYC, and not being a fan of leftovers (I think it's a rebellion against my mom's saving EVERYTHING that is leftover), I pretty much never box. I say "pretty much" because once I took home part of a gigantic steakhouse chocolate cake. When I do box, I let the restaurant do it for me. I do have the feeling/prejudice that boxing food looks cheap, and I rarely see it happen in NYC restaurants. That said, as noted above, I'm not inclined to box by nature.

                                                                                                                                                      1. I ask for food to be boxed if I know I can get it rerrigerated within a reasonable time - DH and I have REALLY sensitive stomachs and get sick if the food was even considering maybe spoiling. I prefer restaurants that box for you, most restaurant plates are so heavy it's clumsy to lift with one hand and scrape with the other - not to mention the old knocking over the wine glass with the styrofoam container trick.

                                                                                                                                                        My favorite boxing story, though, is the our last night in a hotel before moving abroad. I had ordered Filet Oscar and couldn't finish it; and wanted to take it back to our dog waiting in the room. I didn't want to clog the room sink with crab and hollandaise debris, so I asked the waiter to rinse off the steak and box it without any of the sides. He was naturally curious so I admitted it was for canine consumption and got a huge smile! When we got back to the room and opened the box, there was not only my leftover filet, but a stranger's porterhouse bone, both neatly rinsed! My canine daughter enjoyed herself that night!

                                                                                                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Cowprintrabbit

                                                                                                                                                          ahhhhh my dog loves the rib bones i bring back.. I have to be really sneaky and squirrel it away in a napkin.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                                                            Why!!??? Its called a "doggie bag" for heavens sake. And do you take the restaurant's cloth napkin?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                              Of course not.... the ribs are obvisously from a meal I have bought and why would waste a container or styrofoam just for bones. and I do mean PAPER napkin not cloth. GAWD that wld b STEALING.

                                                                                                                                                              I didn't say anything about taking something I have not bought ie sugar on the table or salt shakers.

                                                                                                                                                              Stay on topic and have some coffee :D

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                                                                Just kidding about the napkin and I know you're referring to yoiur own leftover ribs. Genuinely curious why not just ask for a doggy bag?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                  LOL :D well in AB a "doggy bag" is a styrofoam container 99% of the time. A for so few bones.. ie if you have dry ribs for app it doesn't seem worth it. However if I was at a AYCE rib night... (which i've never attempted) maybe i would... then again probably would not because rib night is not usually an every night occurance. I'd probably plan to bring a plastic bag to bag the bones for my beloved furry friend.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Cowprintrabbit

                                                                                                                                                            Great story, Cowprintrabbit! Apparently, your waiter was a dog person. I hope karma has rewarded him with many large tips.

                                                                                                                                                            You raise an excellent point out food being refrigerated within a reasonable amount of time. My restaurant is one where guests sometimes linger over another glass or so of wine, so my staff is instructed to box leftovers and store them in a refrigerator until the customer is ready to pay the bill and leave. I am just not comfortable with someone taking home a leftover piece of fish (for example) that has been sitting at room temperature for an hour or more. We mark the container with the guest's name, of course, so that they don't go home with the wrong container.

                                                                                                                                                            Occasionally , the guest forgets to claim their leftovers, so we hold them in the fridge for 24 hours. After that, we pitch it.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Cowprintrabbit

                                                                                                                                                              Here's another dog related boxing story. My neighbor told me that when she lived in Westport, Conn. she had a friend who walked her dog regularly to a steakhouse and asked for leftovers for her dog. She took the leftovers home and she and her husband ate them! This is a true story.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: neverlate

                                                                                                                                                                She must have been hard up and starving to eat others leftovers.

                                                                                                                                                            2. Another thought about leftovers and travelling:

                                                                                                                                                              When I travel, I consider "checking out the competition" as part of my job. If I'm in a new city checking out a new restaurant I will often order more than I can reasonably eat at one meal. Since I often travel alone, it isn't uncommon for me to order more than one appetizer or two entrees, especially if that particular chef is known for a certain speciality. I think it's unfair to judge a chef by just one dish, so I tend to order from all over the menu so that I can get a better overall view. Obviously, this is not an exact science. I explain to the waiter beforehand that I will be overordering and that I'd like to take the leftovers -- I also state that I'm not some well-known critic looking to torpedo the kitchen, just a chef on a busman's holiday. I also request that the boxed leftovers be stored in a refridgerator until I'm ready to go, since a stack of containers on the table would be unsightly and potentially off-putting to other diners.

                                                                                                                                                              And to answer the question in some CH'ers minds, I only do this if I have an early reservation and the waitstaff and kitchen have not yet come close to acheiving critical mass. As a guest, I realize that a solo diner making these kinds of demands is unusual. By stating my intentions clearly, I find that I have always been treated very well.

                                                                                                                                                              Since I know in advance that I'll be taking food back to the hotel, I always take the precaution of reserving a room that has a refrigertor in it. (I way overspend on dinner, so I usually dig into the leftovers for breakfast and lunch.)

                                                                                                                                                              While visiting Las Vegas last year, I was informed upon check-in that the fridge in my room was part of the mini-bar and that if I moved any of the objects in it, the in-fridge computer would let the front desk know that I had purchased that particular item! I'd never heard of that particular "Big Brother" tactic before and it made me eye the fridge uncomfortably throughout my stay. For me, the worst part was that there was no room for leftovers!

                                                                                                                                                              Now, when booking a room with a fridge I know to ask if it's one I can actually put stuff in.

                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: chefbeth

                                                                                                                                                                That kind of auto-tallying mini-bar is becoming all too common - I encountered one in NYC just last week. But the hotel also made it clear that they would send up a separate mini-fridge for my use on request.

                                                                                                                                                              2. I agree with the waste aspect of boxing your leftovers but how much exactly are you usually boxing? What kind of portions are you getting that you NEED to box? If I have a few bites left that I can't finish, I'm done. That's it. I'm not going to box that up to go. If it's half a meal, I'll probably take it with me.
                                                                                                                                                                I've been cooking in restaurants for 15 yrs and not once have I ever seen anything "done" to the leftovers being packed up. If you trust the restaurant to cook your food, why wouldn't you trust them to pack it up? One more note...the restaurant has to pay for these containers to box your food up, so keep in mind the cost and waste there when asking for a doggy bag.

                                                                                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: trishdelish

                                                                                                                                                                  we like to order apps and usually i only eat half my entree so it's always half my meal that i have left over and im going to use my own tupperware as much as possible now.

                                                                                                                                                                  That is my question exactly... what is that they do to the food when they take it back to box leftovers. my guess is that they just slide the food in with their fingers into the container.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                                                                    Why do you think they use their fingers? I have to say, as someone who worked many years in kitchens, I think it's offensive that people think kitchen staff love to do gross things to people's food. People in restaurants take as much pride in their work as people in any other field. They have no desire to stick their fingers into the food of strangers.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: manraysky

                                                                                                                                                                      So are you saying, manraysky, the people in the kitchen don't use their fingers to test the food?
                                                                                                                                                                      It's odd because where I dine frequently at a very famous restaurant in my area....the owner (who's in the kitchen frequently for everyone to see) uses his fingers and licks them continuously as he's checking out the food.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                          Obviously I am not speaking for every person in every kitchen. But the fact the that the owner of a restaurant you frequent sticks his hands in the food does not mean it's the standard practice. Most kitchens use tasting spoons.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: manraysky

                                                                                                                                                                          Well like every other field there are people that should not be working where they are working. There are some that are not so kind. One can only hope the waiter uses the original or new fork but who is to say they do that every time.

                                                                                                                                                                        3. re: chewy_bakah

                                                                                                                                                                          when i was a server, i'd use the fork you left on your plate to box the food up.
                                                                                                                                                                          otherwise, i just grab a fresh fork.
                                                                                                                                                                          sometimes i'll try to wiggle it in without cutlery, but that's only if it was something "clean" (grilled chicken breast, etc.)

                                                                                                                                                                          there's no fingers involved... i washed my hands SO many times each day, so i'm not going to add more to the count!

                                                                                                                                                                          i'm not going to speak for the whole industry, but everyone i've worked with has the same practice.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: dumpycactus

                                                                                                                                                                            Exactly! I waited tables in my teens/early 20's and followed the same procedure. It's just natural to use the same sliverware to transfer the food. Def would not want to touch food that's been in someone else's mouth-yuck! We just put the food in the containers and bring it back to the table, simple as that.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: dumpycactus

                                                                                                                                                                              servers are fanatical about keeping their hands clean-- after all, if they had crud under their fingernails or ever left greasy fingerprints on their customers' plates, it would affect their tips, and they know it! i don't recall ever seeing a server use her/his fingers to box food, but the nail brush at the handwashing sink gets very good use from the servers! usually the customers' own silverware is used to transfer the food, or at more casual places, a piece of deli paper.

                                                                                                                                                                        4. If i'm at a restaurant with a fantastic menu and may not get near again for a while..I have a tendency to over-order because I want to try so many things. Typically my eyes are bigger than my belly...and i'll end up taking something home. While I rarely do this, I might even select a dessert to be boxed up right from the get go so that I can eat it later when i'm not so full.

                                                                                                                                                                          Never thought of it as cheap to take food with me, unless it's one teeny thing left on the plate. But why waste food anyway?

                                                                                                                                                                          I don't carry food containers with me. My purse is full enough as it is. And while i'd rather let the kitchen box the food , I have on occasion been provided a box and did this myself.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. We were refused a doggie bag at La Grenouille in NYC once (and therefore lost a major part of my meal). I wrote to the owner who replied that it was their policy (alleged health considerations, potential legal liability in case of food-borne illness) and insinuated that we were perhaps not quite their class of customer, if we wished to take uneaten food home. Needless to say we never returned (and have eaten many meals in other restaurants of equal caliber since). Their loss.

                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                              I heard of soup nazi but never doggie bag nazi.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. boxing means someone or something is going to chow down later. Waste is bad and having the leftovers to fullfill the midnite munchies is very very good.