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Nov 1, 2009 06:04 PM

Ordering take-out from places that don't usually do take-out

When it comes to my neighborhood restaurants, I've always preferred eating in the comfort of my own apartment to getting a table (by myself) and eating there. The catch is that a few of them aren't used to take-out orders.

I'd be curious if any of you have any tips for ordering take-out from places where you may be one of very few (if not the only) take-out order.

Stuff I wonder about in particular:

* Should you just not do it? Sometimes I've been told I can't place a take-out order because they're just too busy. Does it really put a strain on the staff on a busy night? Will they hate you the way they hate a non-tipper or habitually rude customer?

* How should you tip?

* Is there any way to make it easier on the staff?

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  1. I work in a small restaurant that offers take-out as a convenience. We are not set-up for take-out. We do not have a dedicated take-out person. Servers answer the phone, take the order, bag it up, and handle the payment. I imagine this is the set-up at your neighborhood restaurants as well. To answer your questions:

    Do it. The restaurant offers the service. Don't feel bad about using it.

    Yes, it really does put a strain on the staff on busy nights. The other reason a restaurant might not take your order is that when the kitchen is slammed, they HAVE to focus on the people who are already in the restaurant. Take-out has to take a back seat, or the kitchen would be even more behind. Generally, we don't hate people who order take-out, but on a busy night, it can make our stressful job a little bit more stressful, mostly due to having to take valuable time away from our tables. While you may not see it as very much time, in the restaurant business, every single second counts.

    Having said that - tip. Not a lot. Nobody expects 20%. Hell, we don't expect anything on take-out. Which means anything we get is greatly appreciated. Many of my regular take-out customers tip me a dollar on each dinner. Some don't generally tip, but every once in a while, they give me a few dollars. This goes a LONG way toward keeping people happy. But know that on a busy night, it can be a serious added stress. But also know that this is not your problem. The restaurant offers the service; don't feel bad about using it. Which leads me to:

    Yes, there are ways to make it easier on the staff. Know what you want before you call. The person answering the phone does not have all the time in the world, despite the fact that she is trying desperately to sound like she does. Keep that phone call brief. Be patient when you come to pick up your food. Gauge the situation. If it's super busy, be flexible. Don't let yourself be ignored; after all, you are also a paying customer, but understand that the server may have to attend to some immediate needs of his/her tables. Have money ready. Again, you are trying to keep the encounter as brief as possible. The servers will greatly appreciate your efforts. Also, maybe, if you are a truly good person who wants to do right by your restaurant, thank the kitchen if you can. They're back there churning out meals like crazy in a hot kitchen and they rarely get to hear the raves or thanks from customers. It's really nice for them to hear that kind of praise. Again, be brief.

    1. i do this pretty often - but usually at odd times and so the strain on staff isn't an issue. i always start by asking politely: "you may not do take out, but would it be possible. . . . . . please . . . thank you so much!"

      i say do it often and all over the place! i mean, restaurants are in the service business. they should help make your life easier/nicer/etc.

      i tip between 10-20 percent depending on how easy/nice the whole process is (and how much my order is - b/c with a big order, a lower percentage tip makes sense because no more has been done. but if you had dined in the restaurant - much more would have been done).

      1. at first you might wish to sit at the bar and order a beverage (coffee or other soft drink is fine. tip well for this drink.) ask for menu and order food to go while you enjoy your drink, letting the bt know you are not in a humongous hurry. tip something for the service, esp if the bt leaves her/his station to package your order. this is your neighborhood place, so you want to be well thought of at a place you'll regularly patronize. when you are familiar to the staff it should be no big deal for you to just call in your order-- you will be regarded as a good *customer*-- not just "that person who orders food to go."

        1. I'm curious what places that don't usually do take-out use to package the food? Foil or saran wrap? For an actual order? Just from what I've encountered for doggie bags for my very cute and always hungry pooch from non-takeout places.