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Oct 17, 2010 11:16 AM

What happens to leftover restaurant food at the end of a shift?

I'm jealous.

They actually let you take home the unsold pies? All the bakeries I've worked at never let us take home any of the unsold goods (for fear that we would bake "extra" near closing time ...)

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  1. Oh they let all the employees take home the pies with less than perfect crusts. Still tasty, just "blemished." Of course this was the early 70's.

    1 Reply
    1. re: HillJ

      I just realized this thread was split from the post about breakfast pie into another topic.

    2. A management attitude I never understood. I worked at some restaurants that absolutely refused to let the staff eat anything during their shifts (and their "staff prices" for meals were $1-2 off retail prices of $9-12). It was particularly galling for the 15-17 year old bus/dishwasher/prep staff, who were growing boys who'd had nothing but a snack since lunch, to watch 30-40 perfectly good baked potatoes thrown into the trash each and every night. . The result? The staff stole food, snuck food, and ruined food.

      Another place allowed to you eat before your shift, so long as it was done at the back, out of the sight of customers. A piece of prime rib with a baked potato and salad set you back $2.50. The result? Impressive staff loyalty.

      Now, 30 years on, the places I mentioned first have all disappeared. The latter place continues on, and thrives. It's karmic, I tells ya.

      35 Replies
      1. re: FrankD

        I couldn't agree more FrankD. People never forget kindness. I still shop at the market that helped me thru my early college years and everyone who knows me shops there. When I see new faces working the pie shift now, I smile.

        1. re: FrankD

          At the restaurants that I've worked, the staff was allowed to eat, and often eat free.

          The reason why restaurants did not allow employees to take food home, esp. bakeries and what-not, is that they did not want the employees baking "extra" near closing time, so that conveniently there would be leftovers for the staff to take home. Starbucks, as far as I know is the same way with their prepared pastries, sandwiches, etc.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            I am aware of Starbucks that sends crew home with baked goods that cannot be sold after a certain time or if the company discontinues an item or it's a broken slice. Fresh, disgarded coffee grounds are bagged and given away to anyone who wants them for gardening.

            1. re: HillJ

              I may not be a starbucks customer but the one near Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco gave the hospice ward ALL their day olds and they were an awesome breakfast!! I love when businesses to this. Waste is just sad but with sharing, an entire ward, employees , volunteers and visitors were able to snack on pastries for breakfast.

              1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                MinkeyM, that's awesome and the goodwill that comes from such gestures is equally wonderful.

                1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                  Just beautiful MM..
                  I wish this was happening promotes such good karma and love for all.

                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    Donaing leftover food (i.e. to a hospice) is common practice.

                    I've never heard of a restaurant allowing customers to take home in-store prepared overruns at the end of the day.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      No, but donating it to charity is allowed and should be done more often.

                      I worked in a Chinese restaurant (owned by Koreans) that let us take stuff home at the end of the day. My dogs got sick of Chinese, LOL! It sure saved on grocery bills, nonetheless.

                      1. re: ZenSojourner

                        "No, but donating it to charity is allowed and should be done more often."


                        While I don't want to hijack this thread, there is something that is often overlooked about donating leftovers/overruns to charity ... cost.

                        For small businesses (or mom and pop type restaurants), the cost to actually package, store, and/or transport the leftovers to a charity can be quite prohibitive. Even if the charity picks it up, simply packaging the leftovers and storing them can be a hassle that prevents many store owners from donating.

                        So, while we all agree that it "should be done more often" please do not denigrate -- out of hand -- those businesses that do not do it. It may not necessariy be because they are heartless or wasteful.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Honestly, many soup kitchens and food pantries are happy to come and pack the stuff up as well. I used to work for a food coop and the local soup kitchen folks were johnny on the spot when we had something for them. They came prepared to pack it up and did so, with minimal input from us.

                          1. re: ZenSojourner

                            No doubt there are organizations that are equipped to come by and pick up, but sometimes it just doesn't work out very well.

                            From personal experience. A restaurant's closing hour is 10 pm. Charity has no one to come by at that time. Can only come by the following morning with tupperware, boxes, etc. in tow. For the restaurant to donate in such an instance, it has to package and store leftovers overnight, which means boxing it up and putting it in the fridge. Boxes or storage containers cost money and fridge space is not unlimited. This does not even take into account the cost of labor to package and store the leftovers.

                            Margins are slim -- very slim -- for restaurants to begin with, esp. small business owners. If it means the restaurant can save a mere $1 by throwing food out as opposed to saving it for charity, trust me, that decision is an easy one to make.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              ipsedixit, see if they have a few volunteers willing to come after hours. I've had some luck with recruiting volunteers to cover such a donation.

                              1. re: HillJ

                                "ipsedixit, see if they have a few volunteers willing to come after hours. I've had some luck with recruiting volunteers to cover such a donation."

                                I'm not posting to solicit solutions.

                                I'm just pointing out that donating food -- as great as it sounds in theory -- is not always practical.

                                Buy and run a restaurant for yourself and you'll soon learn the logistics of trying to donate food.

                                If you can do it, without hurting your bottom line, more power to you.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  oh my. I do run a food biz. More power to you, ips.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    "I'm not posting to solicit solutions."

                                    But maybe you can stop being the Debbie Downer on the idea. Being on both sides in Biz and volunteering, mountains can be moved by ants, but a close mind cannot be opened by an earthly force.

                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                  I agree, it is a generous and wonderful thing that should be done more often but we had an easier time getting direct donations of new food orders then we did of unsold food that was destined for the compost bin. Some places didn't want to package and save up unsold food as it took up space and packaging but they would let us make requests for events which could be wrapped all at once and picked up at an agreed date and time.

                                  The folks at that particular starbucks individually wrapped each and every pastry and they filled two huge bags--bigger than an average paper grocery bag. Every single week, two huge bags, sometimes three. That means they had to pay for the time and the saran wrap and the fancy paper bags with handles!! Not all shops would do this kind of thing, it was an unusual and gracious act.

                                  I have to agree with ipsedixit that it just doesn't happen that often NOT because they are not charitable but because the cost, time and effort can be more of a hassle than just donating money.

                                  I know there were quite a few places that would not donate unsold food for "liability insurance" reasons. Seeing as how I've not had too much experience in the insurance industry, I have no idea if this was a valid concern or not but, hey, who wants to take any chances?

                                  One last concern regarding donating unsold food is that A LOT of places that put out "day olds" are actually putting out "week olds" and then calling them day olds. I knew one place that did that and never, ever asked them for their day olds ;) I think that is one reason shelters do not accept unsold food items, they can't be sure of the actual date of creation and therefore it would be impossible to know or guess a date of expiration.

                                  And, while I'm on this thread, I plan on having a gigantic slice of pumpkin pie for breakfast tomorrow, just because I am inspired now!

                                  1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                    I know there were quite a few places that would not donate unsold food for "liability insurance" reasons. Seeing as how I've not had too much experience in the insurance industry, I have no idea if this was a valid concern or not but, hey, who wants to take any chances?

                                    Many states now have "good sumaritan" laws that generally shield restaurant-donors from liability unless their conduct can be considered intentional (i.e., putting rat poison in leftover stew and donating it).

                                3. re: ZenSojourner

                                  Frank Oliveri, the owner of Pat's Steaks in Philadelphia
                                  They get these loaves of bread and only use the two ends, (because everyone wants an end right?) so they have 'middles' a section of bread about three inches long... they throw the middles into a plastic bag and a local shelter comes and picks them up every day
                                  (just a little fact, that he'd never tell you, but Franks' a nice guy like that)

                                4. re: ipsedixit

                                  You're absolutely right, every penny counts for many small businesses.
                                  There is, though, a tax deduction available to businesses for donating "apparently wholesome food" to a charitable organizations. Just a heads up in case any potential donors are reading- check your tax preparer to see if you might be able to create "instant karma (sorry)"- the charity receives needed food, you get a deduction. You grow your business with the extra cash, which allows more donations... hey! this karma thing IS circular!

                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    Don't know if you knew which post I was responding to.

                                    "I've never heard of a restaurant allowing customers to take home in-store prepared overruns at the end of the day."

                                    Especially at a dim sum joint.

                                    1. re: monku

                                      Don't know if you knew which post I was responding to.

                                      "I've never heard of a restaurant allowing customers to take home in-store prepared overruns at the end of the day."

                                      Especially at a dim sum joint.

                                      Now, I'm totally confused.

                                      I wrote the quoted passage. Were you replying to me?

                                      1. re: monku

                                        ah. I was referring to company's that let the staff take home leftovers at the end of the day. The farmer's market where I worked in college on the pie shift allowed employees to take home (in my case broken pies).

                                    2. re: monku

                                      Food recycling is an interesting concept.

                                      In San Francisco, restaurants are required to recycle food that's been discarded.
                                      It's collected and turned into compost. You can read about that here in Garbage Into `Gold' -->

                                      In Las Vegas, yesterday's casino buffet leftovers are sometimes used to feed pigs believe it or not -->

                                      1. re: Cheese Boy

                                        In Vegas the original use for buffet food is also to feed pigs

                                1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                  I notice at a lot of Starbucks people from organizations come by in the morning to pick up the day old pastries. Employees also get a pound of coffee a week.

                                  1. re: monku

                                    The company has a dozen charitable programs but the employee perks solely on site really come down to the crew/mgrs. If a brick of lemon loaf is past selling date an employee takes it home or it goes in the trash. That decision comes down to a Mgr. p.o.v. Corporate perks like free beans, discounts, sales celebrations, district celebrations are separate.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      The sometimes interesting TV show "Undercover Boss" faced this very dilemma when the CEO of 7-11 went undercover. He was appalled to find that massive amounts of food were going straight into the trash at the end of every day. IIRC, he tried to man up and make it policy that the food would be donated to local charities, but I've never seen any follow up, so I don't know if it actually happened or not.

                                  2. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                    I used to work for a meals on wheels program where we had a day a week we picked up leftovers from Panera Bread (other food banks and programs had their days as well) For leftover bread, it came in an (unused/totally new) plastic trash bag, and the pastries were piled up in handled paper shopping bags. On those nights, I'd spend sometimes a fair amount of time afterwards back at my office rebagging bread for freshness/ease in transport. (And it was me doing it because the company figured I was salaried and if they had one of my minions doing a night's pick-up and bagging, they'd have to pay minion overtime)

                                    Publix supermarkets was also very good about donating day old baked goods, though they no longer do produce donations because of spoilage concerns. As was Fresh Market. Walmart never gave anyone squat.

                                    1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                      Several excellent local restaurants donate end-of-shift food to a local women's/children's shelter on an ongoing basis.
                                      It's been my experience that the less-corporate restaurants feed their employees much much better, either with a family meal pre-shift or a free meal on break. The larger chains are very confused about their bottom lines and the goodwill and loyalty they could inspire by feeding their employees, if not free than cheaply.
                                      One of my best employer-feedin' experiences was actually just several years ago. Meat, seafood and poultry were delivered on a daily basis and NOTHING was held over unless it was specifically planned as family meal. (And no, it was never a "raft" spaghetti sauce.) So at end of shift, we were given carte blanche as long as the person on that station was willin' to cook one more thing for a co-worker. I ate so much lamb, so much duck, so many prawns.......
                                      Good deal.

                                      1. re: mamachef

                                        I'm not familiar with other states but, here in CA, meals provided to employees are considered a part of their 'remuneration' and, as such, the value of said meals are included when Worker's Comp insurance premiums are computed.

                                        1. re: mucho gordo

                                          mucho.....Employee and owner meals are income you are right; and should be reported as non-cash income for state and Federal Income taxes!!....HMMMMM

                                2. re: FrankD

                                  Providing staff with food/meals at the restaurant would also help the staff become familiar with the establishment's offerings, what ingredients make up the preparation, etc., and enable the staff to answer questions about the food and preparations more completely. Maybe even encourage further creativity in the kitchen?

                                3. Just so happens I had this come up with a Carrabbas manager the other day. He said that their staff takes home what is left at the end of the day since they make everything from scratch each day.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: LaLa

                                    He might have been fibbing! I worked at a Carraba's and that was never, ever done.

                                    "want the employees baking "extra" near closing time, so that conveniently there would be leftovers for the staff to take home. " Bingo! Yes, that's why every kitchen I ever worked in threw away extra food or "dead" food. And, also why (referring to another thread) you often need a manager's swipe to split the bill. Servers could ring in an order for themselves under one of their tables, and then split it off and pay for it. Maybe if the restaurant gave them opportunity to eat, they wouldn't feel the need to do that.

                                  2. Most of my restaurant career was in a small Japanese restaurant owned by a friend. On a good night, we might push 200 customers, and maybe had a dozen employees on hand. IOW, a small place.

                                    As the rest of the staff was cleaning and closing, it was my job to prepare the staff meal. I would start with whatever we had left over, then supplement it with whatever was in the fridge that was either (a) cheap or (b) wouldn't be good enough to serve the next day. Sometimes, that meant we ate a truckload of sashimi or even sushi, if there was a lot of shari (sushi rice) left over, too, and other times it was a basic shabu-shabu with a ton of veggies and some chicken or even donburi. Other times, when there was little or nothing left over, we'd order pizza from the place around the corner.

                                    The boss never worried about the staff intentionally cooking too much, and frankly, it rarely (if ever) happened.FrankD talked about it in his post...I think it goes back to respect for the staff. Then again, as I said before, it was a really small place, and in many ways, we were like family. After a REALLY good night, he'd pull out some beers and pass them long as his wife had already left, that is!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ricepad

                                      Yeah, the place I worked was even smaller than that! I'd be surprised if 50 people could fit in that place. We did a lot of takeout too. There were only 5 people in the kitchen at a time at most besides the owner (who was the main chef). Not counting wait staff. I think there were only 2 of them. It was buffet and a la carte, most people did the buffet, which was REALLY GOOD, the best Chinese buffet I've ever had the fortune to meet. His a la carte was MUCH better than the buffet but it was largely wasted on the teensy town this place was in (VERY rural MO, like pop 3,000)

                                      There's just no time in a busy restaurant to purposely make extra food to waste. You're lucky if you keep up with the demand! We had stuff left over because he insisted on keeping the buffet well stocked right up to closing. Then we were allowed to take anything we wanted home with us. We also got at least one meal, maybe two, during our shift, depending on how long the shift was. The only time we had a problem with theft was one teenage girl hired as a waiter who kept taking more than her share out of the tip jar.

                                    2. Used to have a girlfriend in high school who would ply me with leftover hamentashen from the bakery she worked at.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: monku

                                        Hopefully they weren't the prune filled ones.

                                        1. re: mucho gordo

                                          What kind do you think might be leftover at the end of the day?
                                          Of course not my favorite.

                                          1. re: monku

                                            In NYC, "City Harvest" has specially designed trucks hot and cold compartments, In other cities where no such late night organized pick-upexists, there is a huge liability problem meat and prepared foods getting into the "danger Zone" and going bad, we just donated, bakery items to the local church food bank, fed the volunteers mostly!!

                                            1. re: ospreycove

                                              I recently watched the "Avec Eric" show on City Harvest. His restaurant is big enough to keep a separate fridge for food that they don't use and package up to donate.