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Should restaurants take your untouched bread basket and serve it to another table later?

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You've gone out to eat dinner. You're on a diet, so even though you are sorely tempted by the bread basket, you don't touch it. The bread is fresh. Maybe even memorable. When it is removed, it has had no human contact from your table. Should it go in the garbage? Or should it be served to the table that has just been seated next to you?

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  1. Not unless they bring it to the table and you say 'no thank you' before they put it down. Then it's still virgin bread and I'd rather they gave it to the next person than wasted it. Otherwise there's no way to know that it hasn't been pawed at! (shudders)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Kajikit

      agree with Kajikit. if a server puts the basket on the table & walks away, it's no longer fit to be re-served. even if it appears as though the basket hasn't been touched or "disturbed," they have no way of knowing if anyone sneezed on it, or if one of the diners at the table is a "sprayer" when he or she speaks.

      in light of the current Swine Flu issue, i think it's safe to say that EVERYONE needs to err on the side of caution in terms of sanitatary practices.

      1. re: Kajikit

        They should not serve it to another table, but probably, as many restos do, put it in the SFC basket. (save for crumbs...). If they're toasted and/or fried, not many beasties can survive the trip. Don't even get me started on recycled butter @ restos, and YES, many of them do it. I have seen it happen as a veteran of the biz for 26 years. Kind of gross, but come on, how did our forbearers survive before the days of excessive germophobia? Did they THROW AWAY butter or bread because it had been served? Or, God Forbid, TOUCHED by another human? Likely, not. When I was a young'un, we ate dirt, picked at scabs, rarely washed our hands (except before dinner...), made mud pies, cut worms in half with sharpened popsicle sticks, and picked our noses and hardly ever got sick!!! Nowadays, everyone wipes their grocery carts down w/ clorox, uses anti-bacterial soap, plays football on artificial turf and are sicker and unhealthier than ever. Not to mention fatter... I know I sound like Homer's Dad, but I'm only (!) 47. Swine Flu be damned!!! Bring on the pork... adam

      2. Thump...sound of jfood's palm hitting his forehead.

        Absolutely, positively, never in a million years, without a doubt, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO to serving to another table.

        3 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          When we decide that we are not eating bread at a particular meal, and a basket of bread is brought to the table, we say thank you, but please take it away. In that case, I would hope that they would present it at another table, so as not to waste it.

          1. re: jfood

            Yeah, it's wrong, but get real, you should know it happens sometimes--even at the nicest restaurants.

            1. re: jfood

              Never, recycle bread or butter. At my place, never would consider it and I would fire some one on the spot for doing that. I do make all servers ask if they would like bread before serving to make sure I am not wasting time bringing it to them. Some don't.

              But honestly, I have been behind Applebees and a few other more high end restaurants. I would hope you all realize what actually happens. Not just chains but high end places too. Just as bad trust me. Pretty horrifying. They can say that about our but they could also come in back for a whole night and watch everything even hidden cameras. That is one thing we aimed for. Fresh, no processed, definitely no recycled bread, but we honestly believed in that.

            2. I remember I went to a restaurant in Munich where I asked for bread and the server just picked up some unused bread from an empty table and handed it to us. I have to say I was not pleased. It seems more common lately to ask if you want bread and to bring a smaller amount so as to prevent waste.

              7 Replies
              1. re: queencru

                i'd prefer it if restaurants no longer automatically brought bread to the table, and instead made it SOP to either ask if you want it.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  I completely agree, GHG. When did it become a requirement? And people do expect it. I worked for a resto where bread was brought only if you ordered a salad. Folks would often ask for bread, before their meal arrived, as if the server had forgotten to bring it.

                  These days, It seems as though the dining public cannot eat a meal without a starch.

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    I agree as well, some people don't want it. If anything I ask if they could only bring out a couple one for me and who ever I was with. That way we don't fill up on bread and it doesn't go to waste. I have a friend who comes in from out of town once every couple of months and she always wants to go to this steak house. She gets the bread fill up on that, eats her potato and always takes the salad and steak home :)

                    I eat the salad, steak and usually take 1/2 my potato home. Their bread is great, but I would prefer not having it.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      i've worked in places where the bread is brought to the table after the menus are taken and the meal has been ordered. you have no idea how many people get huffy about it, as if the server is an idiot. when did the bread become an appetizer?

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        Yea but it's so automatic now, if they suddenly change it, how will I know that's an option o.o.

                      2. re: queencru

                        In some places the restaurants put the bread on the table before you sit down, like as part of setting the table. Yours might have bee recently turned over and not had the bread. if it is this type of place I would say well, you probably arent getting the freshest bread (although thats true of most places), but I would doubt it is contaminated.

                        1. re: Cebca

                          I am pretty sure the bread was taken from a table that I had either seen guests leave a minute or so prior or actually from a table where the guests were just getting ready to leave. It was not a situation where the bread could have been new.

                      3. In most states it is ILLEGAL to re-serve ore re-use (say to make croutons or stuffing) any bread or crackers (unless invidually wrapped).

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: KiltedCook

                          KC: That's exactly what I was thinking. While I personally don't worry so much about things, it is illegal. Ditto for leaving (unused) silverware on the table for the next party. That said, the rule does not apply to condiments (anyone paranoid should probably take some antibiotic wipes out to clean off the salt and pepper containers!).

                          1. re: KiltedCook

                            Interesting comment, but are you really sure of what you say. For example, in some states it is only against the health code to re-serve sliced bread, but rolls can be reserved.
                            Furthermore, there are states such as Connecticut that leave the rule making up to the individual heath districts. For example, in New Haven it is not required to have a clean plate for a return trip to a buffet or salad line, but in Hamden the next town north the health district requires it.
                            Years ago, a restaraunt manager refused my request for a clean plate for a return visit to the salad bar in his New Haven establishmant (now out of business) telling me that the health department didn;t require it, so he would not provide it. Somehow my plate managed to fall on the floor and smash. So now he had to give me a clean plate and suffer the loos of the dirty one.

                            1. re: bagelman01

                              HA! he deserved that!

                          2. I wonder if everyone would feel the same way if the bread was served in a basket and enclosed in a cloth napkin to keep it warm? Then even if there was "sprayers" or sneezes it would be protected if untouched.

                            is it any different from the suagr packets and condiments which are handled at the same table by multiple parties?

                            1. It is different. Sugar packets, seal unbroken, are classed as a pre-packaged food; and the laws say that pre-packaged ( but by the manufacturer) foods *can* be re-used - sugar, jelly, creamer, etc.

                              Fresh food - the rolls - cannot be re-used whether wrapped in a napkin or not. They are considered on-time-use only.

                              1. Someone told me that they would lick the rolls before putting them into the garbage (like they had been at a table and now needed to be tossed) because the guy who ran the show was snaking the rolls from the trash if he saw them on top and put them into the crouton making bin.

                                Some people are so cheap they will salvo those rolls, but it is a nasty thing to do. Meanwhile they let expensive things go bad in their walk in because they do not rotate - oooorrrrr they cook it up and serve it as a lunch special.

                                I digress. Ick.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                  I would think someone who would be cheap/unethical enough to take rolls from the trash and use them for croutons wouldn't let someone's spit stop them.

                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                    That's enough to make me swear off restaurant salad. EW!

                                    1. re: maplesugar

                                      just ask them to hold the croutons ;)

                                  2. I think I can make quick work of this debate. I often use bread from my basket to muffle a sneeze, and then I replace it neatly in the basket. And I'll be in your town soon.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      I thought I was the only one who did that! It's a shame when that happens at salad bars when there is no roll to sneeze into in sight..

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        Joking aside, I have seen kids sucking the ketchup and sugar containers.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          Sucking the ketchup bottle? Oh. My. Gawd. If my kids ever even pretended to do such a thing I'd be livid.

                                      2. Anyone ever sit at a bar with a bowl of popcorn or peanuts? It's not just yours. Maybe your hand and a few others reached in....I guess wonder where to draw the line.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: SamuelAt

                                          personally, i don't eat out of communal bowls at bars. yuk.

                                          1. re: SamuelAt

                                            The same goes for produce in the grocery store or at the farmers market. People are touching it with their germ-riddled hands. Face it, germs are everywhere. That said, I wash tomatoes, apples, etc. with soap & water before using them. I've seen scary things in the grocery store. Ick.

                                            1. re: lynnlato

                                              It's easier to wash produce than bread...

                                              1. re: lgss

                                                True. But much of what we eat is handled, at some point, by un-gloved hands. You can't wash a sandwich either.

                                                1. re: lynnlato

                                                  but you can wash your hands... hopefully

                                                  speaking of grocery store produce, I witnessed a caabbage fall off the stand, roll across a puddle and get kicked by a shopper...the I witnessed a grocery clerk pick it up, rub it on his apron a bit and put it back. If you think you're washing just pesticides off your produce, think again!

                                          2. Big health code violation, they can't serve it to another table, it's got to go.

                                            1. Seems you should tell them when they bring it to the table or before that you don't want it, then they can return it to the kitchen and give it to folks at another table with no concerns.

                                              1. Years ago when I was in school, I worked briefly at a neighborhood coffee shop - luncheonette. It was my first and last waitressing job. I was fired because the owner realized that I was throwing out bread left in baskets and veggies left in relish dishes. I was only 16, but it seemed the right thing to do. The owner had a fit and told me that ALL restaurants, even the good ones, just replenished what had been eaten. YUCK ... true or not, that stayed with me for years.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Canthespam

                                                  can I reassure you: not true, they don't ALL do it, some take pride in what they do!

                                                2. Didn't know tossing used bread out at restaurants was an issue, until last week. The server presented & placed the bread basket on the table, I picked out a slice & there was a big bite taken out of the bottom part that was nestled in the basket! They apparently thought it was okay to just fill in the empty areas & re-serve the baskets. Yuck. We know from experience that anyone can take a bite & put it back without the server noticing.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: appleblossomxo

                                                    For some reason the visual just made me laugh! This little place we used to go to (they have since closed) had the best bread- really, really good rolls actually- some with seeds, some with cheese-all served hot and in this fancy silver cone thing lined with a linen napkin. Well, I don't think they re-lined the silver cone things very often and instead just filled them up and served to the next guy because we got one with a curious "bite" mark in it that the waitress said 'Oh it got squished, please let me bring you more?"

                                                    My vote is no-the restaurant served the bread with zero hopes of having any of it left over for crumbs. Dump it and bring your guests a fresh basket.

                                                    1. re: appleblossomxo

                                                      shudder... (but I also laughed at that one, sorry)

                                                    2. Should not be re-served. If we are not going to have the bread, pickles, or whatever is brought we say so before it's put down on the table so that it can be served to someone else....

                                                      1. Should they, no! Do they? If you have read Bordain's Kitchen Confidential he recants the nasty things restaurants have done. Reusing bread was certainly one of them.

                                                        1. Once upon a time I worked at a pretty nice place that made really good bread in-house.

                                                          Servers were strictly instructed never to re-serve rolls that had been out on the floor. If they did, it might cause the plastic barrel of uneaten rolls to come up short at the end of the week. And if that happened, we wouldn't have enough bread pudding for Sunday brunch.

                                                          People **loved** our bread pudding.

                                                          1. ...I don't mind, this seems to be an unpopular opinion.

                                                            If they never touched it, I think it's a waste to just throw away bread like that. They take a long time to make (assuming they made it in house...)! I just don't see a problem =/.

                                                            1. NOOO!
                                                              I've never worked at a restaurant that did, although I'm not surprised to find out that some do.
                                                              Most of the restaurants I've been to lately just asked if we wanted bread... Seems like an easy way to avoid wasting without being gross. (Except Parker House, but as if anyone could leave THOSE rolls behind!!)
                                                              What if someone sneezed, coughed, breathed... What if someone's will power kicked in a little late and they touched it?
                                                              Bread is cheap.