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Doggy Bag ... sub rosa style. A big "no-no"?

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Is it ever ok to take home food secretly without letting the restaurant know about it?

I'm not talking about taking food that you did not order or pay for; rather, I'm talking about food that (1) you've ordered (2) paid for (3) have not finished (4) but the restaurant will not bag it up for you as a matter of policy.

Here's why I ask.

At a recent happy hour at chain steakhouse, one of us ordered the happy hour burger (which was darn good by the way). It was a big burger and could not be finished. Our companion wanted to take the rest home.

Server said could not bag up any food off the bar menu (or for that matter could not order any food "to go" from the bar menu).

Makes sense of course. The bar menu is deeply discounted and a loss leader used to entice people to order drinks -- a high margin item. The "no doggy bag" or "take out" rule prevents abuse by customers.

That said, would you frown on someone who grabbed a stack of napkins, and wrapped up the uneaten burger, put it in their purse, as their own little sub rosa doggy bag?

Your thoughts?

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  1. I'd do it in a heartbeat. I paid for the food; I should be able to do what I want with it. I would draw the line at pouring my undrunk beer into a plastic bottle and taking it home, though.

    2 Replies
    1. re: small h

      LOL @ plastic bottle for beer.

      1. re: OCAnn

        And then I'd drink it through a straw, naturally.

    2. I agree - I paid for it, it's mine. The restaurant doesn't want to pay to box stuff up, that's fine.
      On a related note - I've thought about carrying a container along for a doggie bag, in an effort to avoid extra plastic/styrofoam. I mostly think about it when we go places where we don't usually finish what we order (pizza, Chinese food). However, I think I might really be labeled as crazy...

      1 Reply
      1. re: bakinggirl

        I have neighbors who bring their own tupperware, often even to pretty nice restaurants. The restaurant usually just seems happy not to have to use theirs. Nearby tables might look twice, but who cares about them.

      2. Well, I'd frown on it, but not for the "ethical" reasons you're asking about. Rather, who wants a dripping, soggy burger in their purse? Or any loosely wrapped food, for that matter.

        But assuming you just happened to have, say, a zip-top bag available, I'd say it's okay, as long as it's a one-time thing and you're not using the bar menu as cheap take-out. I'd probably act as your look-out if I were with you!

        Me, I'd either eat it or leave it. But that's just me. I wouldn't want a leftover burger, no matter how good.

        1. There's always a ziploc bag or two in my purse. Often that is a better way to transport leftovers than a styrofoam container, which is more likely to leak around the closure. It is usually possible to discreetly slip the leftovers into it if the venue is one in which you would feel uncomfortable being observed. Personally, I would not care if someone saw me. I have no particular reason to be uncomfortable with the food being taken away, then returned in a container, but I am. I prefer it when the server brings the container to the table and either packs up the leftovers there or leaves the task to the customer. I usually do a neater job of it than they do, and sometimes it looks like you're not getting back everything that you left...

          1. I hate wasting food, and so I would be fine with doggy-bagging it in this situation. I tend to agree with Lisavf that I wouldn't want a burger wrapped up in a bunch of napkins in my purse, but if I had some tupperware or a baggie, then sure.

            But I guess here may be some situations where I would be less comfortable doing so. For example, an all -you-can-eat situation, where doggy-bagging is not allowed because of the clear possibility of abuse. In these situations, I would not sneak in a doggy-bag.

            But when you have paid for an item, and you want to take the rest home, that seems fine.

            1. Yep, I would take it. I ordered it, paid for it, and presumably ate some of it. I can understand not offering the bar menu "to go", but if a customer sits, orders, eats, and has some left, why not let them take it? All it will do is end up in the trash otherwise.
              Agreed, though, that I would be hesitant to do it unless I had a decent way to wrap the item.

              1. I have nothing wrong with it. Sometimes I do have extra ziplocs in my purse so it wouldn't be that messy. You paid for the meal, why shouldn't you be able to take it home. It's not like you're stuffing a whole buffet into your purse (as my grandmother used to do with her gigantic ziplocs back in the day).

                1. We always carry round a bunch of 'tupperware' in the back of the car. We frequently order more than we can eat - especially at Asian places where you want the variety but have no chance of consuming the lot. The prime reason is to stop leaks. I am yet to get back to the house with a styrofoam dish of curry without it leaking into the plastic bag.

                  The restaurants we frequent are actually very happy that we do it. Saves their time and their containers.

                  1. I understand why one would limit the low-price/special option to in-house eating and I also understand why people may not collect leftovers from an AYCE buffet (who must then own their own horrifying wastefulness).

                    However I do not understand/appreciate the limits on packing up leftovers from the bar. (I understand that they've made it a rule, but I do not appreciate the logic.)

                    As Ipsedixit has observed (and quite correctly, if you ask me, which you didn't, but still...): the low price bar menu is in place to entice people to sit at the bar: This not only encourages increased drink orders but likely produces a higher turnaround than the seats in the dining room. And if not, the person lingering is drinking, so not really camping.) The restaurant bar is already reaping benefits from this arrangement so either they ought to consider making smaller burgers or allow people to take what they can't eat. It's just so appallingly wasteful as to be vindictive.

                    Abuse by customers is questionable as
                    1) The special offer could be limited to one per customer and

                    2) any effort to scarper after a short while (having likely already ordered a drink, which may well be part of that happy hour option anyway) still fits into the plan to increase revenue with drink orders and faster turnaround times.

                    1. Years ago I was in a restaurant that had an "all you can eat" entree. I watched a woman next to me order a completely new plate, take a bite and then wanted them to bag it for her as "she couldn't finish it". That is probably the reason for the "rule".