Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Jun 1, 2009 07:38 AM

restaurant holding your leftovers?

I am curious about something. I went out with a girlfriend on Saturday for a spa visit. We went to a restaurant first and had a leisurely lunch, then walked over to the spa next door. We ordered too much food and were too busy talking, so we ate less than half the food on the table. Most of it wouldn't keep well, but I asked the waitress if it would be possible for them to hold my leftover lobster ravioli dish for me for two hours while I was next door getting my nails done. She refused and said they weren't legally allowed to do that because I had already purchased the food. Now, this isn't something that comes up often (one of the few times when our cool NY weather 9 months of the year comes in handy) but I know that I have asked at restaurants a few times in the past (usually when going somewhere before a movie or play) and never encountered a problem. Anyone hear of this before? I am curious whether my expectations were too high or not. It certainly broke my heart a little to have them throw more than half a plate of lobster ravioli in the garbage.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. First thing, Yuck, heck, the only thing, yuck.

    I would never ask a restaurant to hold left-overs, that's just plain wrong; Me think most "respectable" chefs will throw it away since they should promote "fresh" cooked foods, not re-heated leftovers.

    I can just imaging/see the scene, me coming to a restaurant and asking for my left-overs !!! that's just plain wrong.

    anyway, it's probably illegal or against regulations in most civilized places.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Maximilien

      Just to clarify, I wasn’t looking to come back, take a table and eat more of the dish! It was already packaged up. It was too warm to safely leave them in the car for a couple of hours.

      1. re: meg944

        I knew what you meant. I was a co owner of a restaurant, but a smaller upscale diner and most not all but most were people we knew. Yes I would do it. Many restaurant will and do not. It may be there own rule. Some states may have a rule. FL doesn't as far as I know. We did it because we were small enough. But a couple of other restaurants I worked it. No they would not. I side with both. I would want them to, but understand it is their policy. In most restaurants ... they certainly have room so that isn't an issue, but keeping track of things if they did it for everyone would be hard so they draw the line.

        1. re: kchurchill5

          You are right, Florida has no rule on storing food.

          We did it if we had fridge space. if the boxes were voluminous, maybe not. But one while they went to the movie or slipped to the bar for a after dinner drink. No prob.

          What is the fuss? Would you refuse to hold a "To Go" order if they were running late? Would you refuse to hold a birthday cake in the walk in for birthday party guests? Not if you want to be a place where people feel welcome and wanted.

      2. re: Maximilien

        how is it wrong? meg bought the food, it's hers.

        should a restaurant also refuse to give a doggie bag, as it isn't "fresh cooked"? or take out?

        i don't get it

        1. re: thew

          A restaurant is a food serving establishment not a storage facility.

          And then the food was left behind and therefore abandoned. Maybe the State will contact the person in a few years and make them fill out 23 forms to reclaim the abandoned property.

          1. re: jfood

            the restaurant has every right to say no. my befuddlement is at people who seem to have a problem w/ the OP asking

      3. I can kind of understand their policy.
        You ask them to hold it and it isn't there when you return?
        You pick it up later and maybe handle it improperly and get sick?

        I'm the kind that never lets them pack my leftovers because I'm worried about the person's hygiene packing it or they won't pack everything I had left over.

        I once saw a waiter picking up plates from a table and just before he was ready to dump the plate into the bin he grabbed a half eaten lobster tail off the plate and polished it off.

        1. I don't think restaurants have the room to store leftovers for customers, even for 2 hours.

          1. Thanks, all.

            FYI, I asked my local restaurant blog about the issue - so far there's no indication that it would be illegal, and it's interesting to see the various responses.


            This particular scenario is not something that has come up very often in the past, but it actually is pretty common for me to have some of my appetizer or other early course wrapped up for me so I can try more dishes. This is especially true with tasting menus - even with the smaller portions it is simply too much for me. Occasionally restaurants will pack the food up and then leave it on the table but most places take it away and then bring everything back out at the end of the meal – I am not sure why this scenario would be so different, as the amount of time it would be stored would probably be close to the same. But this will definitely make me think twice before requesting such a thing in the future. I actually quite enjoy leftovers, as a rule (obviously many dishes don’t reheat well) and I don’t have much of an appetite, so I have a tendency to over-order.

            I have had my leftovers lost by the staff perhaps once or twice over the years. It was a small disappointment but no big deal. That, or worry over the hygiene of the staff, doesn’t bother me. If I trust them to make and serve my food in the first place, I don’t worry about how they will deal w/ my leftovers. I actually find it just slightly off-putting when they bring containers out to the table for me to fill, though I know it is obviously a matter of house policy.

            1 Reply
            1. re: meg944

              don't think twice meg. ask away - if they so no, it's no.

            2. I've never asked a restaurant to hold leftovers in the refrigerator and wouldn't expect them to, but I was pleasantly surprised at Craft in Manhattan when we had ordered a prix fixe and wanted to save room for dessert but couldn't quite finish the main course, that they offered to wrap up our leftover Bluefoot chicken and hold it in the refrigerator, and we could pick it up on the way out. I thought this was an excellent service that contributed to food safety rather than detracting from it.

              43 E. 19th St., New York, NY 10003

              4 Replies
              1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                Did they really specify that they would hold the chicken in the fridge until you were finished? I've had a lot of mains wrapped to take home that weren't brought back to the table until we'd finished dessert, but I've never had any resto specify that they would hold them *in the refrigerator* specifically or that we could pick them up when we were done.

                I think there's a big difference between the resto holding the wrapped leftovers for you while you finish eating there vs. putting them in the fridge for a couple of hours while you leave and do something else. It would never have occured to me to ask them to do this.

                1. re: akq

                  Yes, they said they would keep them in the refrigerator and we could pick them up either at the coat check, if I remember correctly, or perhaps it was the maitre d' station, and I remember that the person who got them had to go back to the kitchen to get them. It seems to be their normal procedure, and they're a fairly large restaurant, so perhaps they have a separate refrigerator for this purpose.

                    1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                      Craftsteak at Foxwoods in CT did the same thing for us - it was a nice touch. I think we took a more leisurely approach to dessert and after-dinner drinks because we didn't have the doggy bag staring us down, saying "It's time to leave now."