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Packing leftovers at the table - Is it just me?

Last night, I went out to dinner (Bertucci's) and since I couldn't finish my entree, I told our server that I would like to bring it home. She brought a styrofoam container to our table and picked up my plate and fork, and scraped the food right there into the container for me. It looked like she was scraping food into the trash, and the food then immediately became labeled "garbage" in my head. Totally lost my appetite.
Am I being oversensitive? Have you seen this happen and thought it was okay (or disgusting)?

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  1. I've never seen or heard about it being packed up right in front of you. I would have froze a bit and deduct 5 or 10% tip for that. The proper thing would have been to take the plate back and then pack. I'm guessing that the server was just inexperienced...

    Well, just to take the other side a bit, it may be that some people just want to make sure that everything is packed up properly and nothing is contaminated. So, they want to see it being done. Go figure.

    1. I've had this happen to me. I didn't mind it.

      I would have preferred thought that the person had let ME put the food into the container, but it wasn't a big deal.

      1. This is very common in mid/popular priced restaurants.
        At best, you are assured that you get all your food, and that you don't get food from someone else's plate and mouth mixed with your food.

        At worst, you feel that you've been sitting in a scullery.

        1. Why anyone would deduct from the tip for this boggles my mind...as noted, this is procedure for many restaurants and chains in particular.....I've also seen this done in many Chinese restaurants, especially in NYC's Chinatown.

          21 Replies
          1. re: fourunder

            Because it's not proper. If you find a spec on your glass and ask for a clean one, do you expect the old glass to be taken away and a new one brought or for the server to come with a towel/cleanser, clean it and present it again?

            But, the big reason would be that many dishes needs to be properly packed, separated into different sections/containers or at least corners neatly so that it can be opened and heated properly at home. Just scraping everything into a box... No. Properly packaging takes time and so it shouldn't be done at the table where it can interfere with the guests.

            1. re: ediblover

              It's only not proper by your standards and as noted by others it's a very common practice and mandated procedure. If you have ever been to any of the Hillstone/Houston restaurants, which are not cheap and are casual/upscale, they do this all the time as policy. If someone brought out a box to pack your leftovers, you could always stop them and request otherwise. To hold back a tip for them doing their job as required is silly.....just like your dirty glass analogy.

              Properly backed leftovers....that's a dream. Some places actually use just bags or foil to wrap leftovers.....Le Bernedin used to make foil swans........would you hold back the tip for that too.

              As of this post, there have been 10 respondents to the query. Nine of them do not find it odd. Only yourself and the OP do.....

              1. re: ediblover

                Why would you deduct from a server's tip when it is the restaurant's policy to pack up the leftovers at the table? Seems very unfair to me.

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  because some people look for any excuse to dock a tip?

                  1. re: ttoommyy

                    Because I find it to be incorrect and it's a big part of the service. I'd take it a step further and say that restaurants should set aside a small station with the room and containers ready to go (if they don't have a "to go" station).

                    As for the implication that some people are cheap... Last time I ate out my bill was $47.x and I left $60. There was also this one occasion years ago where the tip was over 300%. So, no, we're not cheap.

                    1. re: ediblover

                      If it's the restaurant's policy (and I assure you, Bertucci's is no French Laundry) to pack at the table, perhaps you mention it to a manager instead of docking the waiter for doing his job. Seems like everyone wins that way.

                      1. re: ediblover

                        many restaurants are scraping by with all the space they can spare for tables, and all the servers working at max. now you want them to devote space to the occasional leftover, and someone to man that space?

                        1. re: thew

                          I'm fairly sure that a place like Bertucci's has their share of carry out orders. So, they probably have a station for that. It just makes sense to use the existing station for what's essentially the same process.

                          1. re: ediblover

                            I'd rather have it packed in front of me , if you're that uptight about food being packed at the table how much of a pain are you while they are waiting on you. If I where you I'd be worried when it was taken out back to pack up , they would spit in it. It happens.

                            1. re: Dave5440

                              Given that I'm respectful, take the time to thank and don't make a fuss, I've never quite been in a situation where I felt I had to worry about "revenge." Besides, I don't even remember the last time (None in the past few years) I asked for a bag - If it's worth finishing, I finish it.

                              I don't think I've ever witnessed any place (This is in New York) that actually did it at the table. Again, doing so disrupts the table (and dining room traffic) unnecessarily and seems inefficient.

                              1. re: ediblover

                                I've never seen this done, either. Usually if I ask them to bring me a box, they offer to take it and box it for me (in the kitchen, the same place they get all the to-go orders ready, as well as all the in-house orders, and where they hang out, eat and do whatever else.) And then I just say, "it's okay. I don't mind." It does seem a bit strange to box it for you at the table, but I would reduce their tip for it. That just seems nitpicky.

                    2. re: ediblover

                      As a former server in a high end restaurant, we were told that it was a health code violation to take the food away from the table to pack it. That may not be the case any more, but I know the rationale behind packing at the table at a lot of restaurants is to ensure that you are getting your food and that it is not contaminated. I actually view it as a sign of good service when a server does this (and it actually takes more time on the servers part than taking your plate back to the kitchen). It's certainly not a reason to deduct a tip from your server.

                      1. re: cook53

                        Not only does it eliminate contamination TO your plate, but it eliminates contamination FROM your plate -- much as we'd all like to think we're carriers of nothing but rainbows and kittens, the reality is that it's just as possible for someone to catch something from US as it is for us to catch something from them.

                        Mostly? yeah, it's just you.

                        1. re: cook53

                          Well said Cook53. And motivated servers pack the food in a way that doesn't make it look like they are scraping it into the trash, but carefully saving it for future enjoyment. When done that way, it is tip-worthy service. Apparently that was not the OP's experience.

                          1. re: cook53

                            im sure that varies state by state

                            1. re: cook53

                              Totally agree. I'd rather have it done in front of me or do it myself. I may not want everything I left on the plate - perhaps that's why Ieft it on the plate! It appears that this is the current practice in Boston, at least in the restaurants I have had my leftovers packed up in and I prefer it to the back room approach.

                          2. re: fourunder

                            +1. Seriously, I think some people are just looking for a reason. And really, is it that hard to let something like that go even though you might not have liked it?

                            1. re: virtualguthrie

                              Wherever I do business, I tend to hold the place to a fairly high standard. However, in a lifetime of watching customers -- both as a fellow customer and as an employee of the establishment -- I have come to the conclusion that some people go into a restaurant, store, grocery, whatever just looking for something to be pissy about. Looking for a disagreement, a fight, an slight.

                              1. re: jmckee

                                That is so, so, so very true. Some people aren't happy unless they aren't happy.

                                1. re: jmckee

                                  >some people go into a restaurant, store, grocery, whatever just looking for something to be pissy about.

                                  I know someone people refer to as "Dave, the waiter hater."

                              2. Chinese restaurants do this all the time, at least the ones that don't just give you the boxes and make you pack the leftovers yourself.

                                I'm curious why your mind went to "garbage". What she did was exactly what you would have done if she'd just handed you the empty box. Was it because everything got mixed together that you would have preferred to remain "separated" ?

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: dump123456789

                                  I think my mind went to "garbage" because watching her scrape off the plate with my fork made me think of dumping food in the trash....

                                  1. re: crabtree

                                    Yes, I've seen it happen but not often since most places I go to pack leftovers in the kitchen. I'd actually rather have them do it in front of me because sometimes I think they don't pack everything in to make it fit into their container.

                                    I don't think much of it at all. If the waitress "scraped" your plate, it means that she was trying to get every last morsel into the container. More food for you!

                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      Back in the 80's there was a serious Barbecue Back Rib Craze, popularized by Tony Roma's. As such, there were many copycats and one of them was an outfit called *Bobby Rubino's Place For Ribs*. One of the feature items was what they called the *City Rack*, which was two full racks of Canadian Baby Back ribs for for $14.95. It was quite common for most to order it, but seriously, could anyone eat two racks at one sitting. I went there three times at one specific location where I always requested the second rack to be wrapped up and taken home as leftovers......when I opened the doggy bag on all three of those instances, there were only half racks in them each time. I presumed the bus staff had helped themselves each time.......they were lucky there was no internet where I could have logged on and slammed them for robbery...:0)

                                      1. re: fourunder

                                        I would have been so pissed! I probably would have told them "Please pack the FULL rack this time" my second time. But two racks for under $15! Quite the deal.

                                    2. re: crabtree

                                      So it sounds like you would have preferred if she had placed the leftovers into the box more deliberately, as if she were serving them.

                                      It doesn't bother me, since I would've scraped them into the box myself. The only unappealing part would have been if the food wound up all over the place in the box, or all mixed together.

                                  2. I've seen everything from them handing me a box for me to pack up my own, to them doing it tableside, to them taking my plate away and coming back with a packed-up box. I prefer them to do it for me so I don't spill anything. It sounds to me like you felt your server did it messily? Otherwise I'm not sure what the complaint is.

                                    1. It's done all the time unless you tell the server that you will do it yourself. She's your server and was performing a service for you (servicing you?). What I will not let them do is take my plate to their prep/staging area and do it where I can't watch.

                                      1. What were your leftovers?

                                        1. Don't find it disgusting at all. This happens to us all the time. But we generally go to mid to lower priced ethnic places. We usually order a wide range so we can taste several different dishes and then take leftovers home for work lunches.

                                          It's 50-50 whether they leave the containers and have us do it or they put it in themselves.

                                          1. Usually I am a member of the Clean Plate Club. ~~ On the rare occasions I ask for a "Doggy Bag" I ask for a container and pack it myself.

                                            1. I'd rather do it myself:
                                              Had lunch at a midwest chain (GC) and didn't eat my coleslaw on purpose because I wanted it on my pork butt that was smokin' at home. Server took my leftovers away and put a name, smiley face, and date on the clam shell. Ready to make dinner and opened it up and it had my other leftovers, but no slaw. BOO! Went back a couple weeks later and mentioned it; they gave me a tub on the house. Now, I mention this every time I go there.
                                              Another restaurant, Ducks and Company (defunct), prided themselves on wrapping leftovers in duck shaped foil, certainly made a leftover taste 'ducky-ish' and much better! sorry.
                                              What happened to the "doggy bag" from the 70's? It worked fine.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: hamboney

                                                the duck/swan tinfoil is very very old school. i have not seen that done since the late 60's or early 70's

                                                1. re: thew

                                                  I remember my mom and dad bringing home swan-foiled leftovers and we were so in awe that we wouldn't want her to open them...EVER.

                                              2. I no longer bring leftovers home because of this practice. I truly do not find it enjoyable to have your food put into styrofoam--which I don't use at home--and then have it sit there on the table while you have your dessert and maybe coffee, especially if it's a nice evening out. I try very hard to order smaller dishes or ones I can split with my dining companion. But then I only go to a couple restaurants and none of them have outside portions.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                  Some places pack your leftovers in the kitchen and store in in the fridge. Then the waitstaff gives you a coat check tag so you can ask for it when you leave.

                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                    That would be very nice, but haven't seen that around here in a long time. Maybe it really is true that the law now makes them do it at the table so you know you're getting your own food?

                                                    1. re: escondido123

                                                      Don't think it's a law because I've recently had stuff packaged for me in the kitchen. Perhaps it's a regional thing. I generally don't order things to go when I'm traveling so all I can talk about is my hometown. Maybe you need to expand your list of restaurants you go to. ; )

                                                2. I guess I don't understand how she would get the food into the container without scraping it in? Is your objection just that it was done at the table (since the same thing, or perhaps worse, would have happened had they done it elsewhere)?

                                                  I've experienced this method, had food taken to the back and boxed and had containers left so I can do it myself. Personally, I prefer doing it myself so I can choose what to take and what to leave (some thing don't reheat well and aren't worth the trouble) but the other options don't offend me in any way.

                                                  1. I'm sorry about whom I am offending, but why is there this need to take food home. If you wouldn't do it at a friend's house, why at a restaurant. I truly do not mean to offend anyone, but why are we ordering so much more than we can eat? Again, just trying to figure this out and not meaning to criticize anyone.

                                                    25 Replies
                                                    1. re: escondido123

                                                      Because your friend doesn't charge you for your meal. Unless I have somewhere to go after my meal and won't have access to refrigeration, I don't see a problem with taking home leftovers. Absolutely hate waste. And have you seen portion sizes in America? They are huge!

                                                      1. re: escondido123

                                                        I sometimes deliberately order more than I can eat at one sitting, because if I didn't, I'd never get to try an appetizer or a dessert. And sometimes I want to run up a larger check, because I like a restaurant and want to support it, but I don't want to waste food and leave it there uneaten. I think taking food home is a win-win for me, the restaurant, and the server. I get more variety in my meal, because I can order more courses; the restaurant should be happy because I have a larger bill; and the server gets a larger tip. Plus I have my next day's lunch taken care of. Not sure why anyone would have a problem with it.

                                                        1. re: escondido123

                                                          Masaharu Morimoto himself insisted on packing our leftover monkfish liver soup home.

                                                          French Laundry packed our petit four.

                                                          1. re: escondido123

                                                            I don't get it either, I have never asked for a doggy bag in my life. If I want to eat the same thing again tomorrow, I will go back to the restaurant and order it again, at least that way it will be fresh.

                                                            I had a friend who would stay at my place during the winter when he wanted to escape the cold for a few days. We would go out to eat, he would order the doggie bag, then leave it in my fridge ... nothing like finding someone else's half-eaten Mexican in your fridge ... had to lay down the law, no doggie bags!

                                                            1. re: redfish62

                                                              Thanks redfish, at least there are two of us. I do have to admit taking a very nice paper bag home from a restaurant four years ago.. We had order the 4 course menu but we were too full for dessert, so we just asked them to make it to-go rather than bring it out. It was nice to wake up to a berry tart, even if we did forget there was ice cream on top--we just pretended it was a vanilla sauce.

                                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                                I have not taken a doggie bag home in over 30 years and I can probably increase that number but i know that 30 is a safe break point. So the count is at least 3 and add mrs j for 4.

                                                                My mom, on the other hand, is a single woman who uses the leftovers for a couple of more meals. works great for her.

                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                  I really don't care if other people take food home; it's none of my business. And in the old days, before this"throw the styrofoam container on the table and walk away" technique, it remained that way. But does anybody find it delightful to be in the midst of a nice meal---AKA fairly expensive evening out--while the table next door opens the clamshell, possibly disucusses what to take, scrapes food in, closes in shut and then leaves it sitting there not three feet for your own table. I guess that's why it bothers me now....it's not discrete.

                                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                                    why should it be discrete? is it socially unacceptable?

                                                                    the foam doesn't smell bad. it's not inherently unattractive. it doesn't indicate the person is some sort of slob or is destitute. Like you said, why would/should you care? If you choose not to, fine. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. But whether others do or not doesn't affect my dining experience one iota.

                                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan


                                                                      Let me give you my viewon I find it socially unacceptable.

                                                                      If i am dropping a hundy at dinner I would prefer that a certain decorum is maintained. The bringing of the styro-doggie reminds me of a lousy salad bar take-away place not a hundy+ restaurant.Likewise i find paper plate, plastic utensils, paper napkins and plastic cups socially unaccpetable at a hundy+ restaurant.

                                                                      At a certain price point i expect certain amenities. And seeing a styro doggie at the next table is not on the list.

                                                                      1. re: jfood


                                                                        thanks. and i did't really catch what escondido said about 'fairly expensive." I would not expect a foam clamshell to be dropped on a table at that kind of restaurant, and I didn't get the impression this is the type of meal the OP was talking about, unless pasta on the east coast has really gotten expensive. I would hope that in a restaurant at that level, they would take the leftovers into the back (where they would pack them rather neatly) and then return with them in a nice paper package, not a white plastic bag with THANK YOU in huge letters on it. My apologies to escondido as well.

                                                                        If a nice 'paper bag', preferably with handles, with tasteful graphics and the restaurant's logo on it is offensive, then I am at a loss.

                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                          I personally find this perspective a tad confusing. If I am dropping a hundy at dinner, I'd like a certain decorum maintained as well, but the cackling group of slightly too drunk ladies to one side of me or the couple who are yelling at the waiter for a perceived slight to the left are more distracting than a simple bag or container perched on someone's table.

                                                                          Ultimately though, if I let any minor annoyances from other people's lives really impact my night, every evening would be ruined from the traffic on the way to the restaurant, let alone once I go there.

                                                                        2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                          I agree. I do not look at care about what others are doing in the restaurant. I'm engaged in my own meal and with my own companions.

                                                                          When I was younger, I was hestitant about getting a carry out for food left over. I eat less now and most restaurant meals are way too large. I don't see wasting food. Also, I do have a dog, and she is thrilled if I bring home a treat for her. She's always been thin, so she can handle a treat now and then. So, yes, I will ask for a box.

                                                                          I prefer to pack my own and will say so. Like others here, I like to place items neatly in the box and not have foods mixed together. Also, I may be, in fact, packing a treat for my dog so would include the fat etc.

                                                                          We waste too much in this country, and we care too much about what others might be thinking.

                                                                        3. re: escondido123

                                                                          I agree that it ruins the visual ambiance, just like crappy clothes.

                                                                          And I have never even seen other tables with the styro clambox and the pack your own at any restaurant. It is normally the server taking it back to the kitchen and then a bag is brought and discreetly placed next to the diner who requested the doogie.

                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                            I don't go out to dinner too often because I can't afford to spend $150 every week. So when I do, it's kind of an occasion and we make an evening of it. It used to be pretty easy to find a nice place, with nice atmosphere, where diners and staff agreed about what made for a pleasant evening. Then came cell phones, food sensitivities, photographers, young kids, hairy guys in tank tops. What others do affects my dining experience. Guess that's why I usually eat at home.

                                                                    2. re: redfish62

                                                                      So if you don't "get it", don't do it. Several of us who do do it have laid out our reasons for doing it, and I think they are pretty legitimate reasons. Do you really care if those of us who want leftovers take a box home? Live and let live.

                                                                      1. re: MelMM

                                                                        I don't care in the least so long as the left over food doesn't wind up in my fridge.

                                                                    3. re: escondido123

                                                                      I am trying to lose weight. Normal portions at many restaurants are too much food for me. I am ordering one portion. I can't share with my SO because we don't like the same things and he usually eats the entire portion of his meal anyway. If the USA were more reasonable with portions like Europe I would be less likely to take home part of a meal.

                                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                                        That is why I often order a variety of appetizers. I'd rather have a variety of flavors than a lot of one. Not that it has seemed to work for my weight loss.

                                                                        1. re: escondido123

                                                                          I love doing this as well but not every restaurant is conducive to that...if I had my way all food would be tapas style. I love small plates :)

                                                                          1. re: melpy

                                                                            I would eat this way every day if I could!! Sadly, I live in a tapas restaurant wasteland :/

                                                                            1. re: alliegator

                                                                              But what about appetizers? I don't live near a tapas place either but there always seem to be small plates, first courses etc.

                                                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                                                Oh, sure! Plenty of appetizers, but sometimes even they seem big. I just meant that a real tapas restaurant would be nice. I moved about 2 years ago from a city that had tapas everywhere, and 2 great places that sold exclusively small plates representing many different cuisines. I miss those. I think the notion of a variety of little plates made me a bit homesick :D

                                                                                1. re: alliegator

                                                                                  I moved from a city known for its food to a city that's not even known. I share your sadness.

                                                                        2. re: melpy

                                                                          I went to Carrabba's with a friend during a visit to the US a few years ago. I was starving, so ate a good amount of the daily special that I ordered, but there was still a mountain of food left. I took the leftovers home, and THREE of us ate the leftovers for lunch.

                                                                          I ended up with an meal that size because it was the size of the meal that arrived.

                                                                          But feeding FOUR people? That's nuts, and there's no justification for throwing away that much food. It's wrong on so many levels.

                                                                        3. re: escondido123

                                                                          Recently, friends took us to a Portuguese place in New Bedford, MA. Very pleasant, friendly service, LOTS of good food. We all ate well, but my husband hit the jackpot.

                                                                          He ordered a pork stew with clams and fried potatoes. Well, the server brought out this pot of food that was bigger than his head. Husband ate til he was happy, (everything we got that night was very good) and we got the rest packed up. I swear, we had two more dinners (I cheated and added some veg the second night, and I still had enough left over to make two servings of soup for lunch the third day.

                                                                          Our friends claim it's a cultural thing, that New England Portuguese-Americans expect to get at least a couple of extra lunches out of a restaurant meal.

                                                                        4. If you're sensitive, Hermes makes a wonderful insulated doggie bag with utensils. You can scrape your own food and not worry about improper servers.

                                                                          1. If I'm in the kind of place where it's appropriate to take leftovers to begin with, then I actually prefer that they hand me an empty container and allow me to do it myself, because I can do a better and more discerning job at it. For example, if something on the plate has the potential to create sog-factor (like a dollop of sour cream), then I'll either leave it on the plate or, if possible, put it in a dedicated compartment. Often waiters will just dump the food indiscriminately into the container, which can ruin it.

                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                            1. re: brancron

                                                                              "If I'm in the kind of place where it's appropriate to take leftovers to begin with"

                                                                              What kind of restaurant is it not appropriate to take leftovers from? I've taken leftovers home from some of the best (and most expensive) restaurants in NYC. If you paid for the food and cannot finish a substantial portion of it, why not take it home? Is it better that is gets tossed out?

                                                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                Europe doesn't do doggy bags in general. There are exceptions, but not very many.

                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                  That's an exaggeration. In Lisbon, a restaurant wrapped up a bottle of wine that I hadn't finished. I've had plenty of food that I didn't finish wrapped up to go all over Europe.

                                                                                  Europe, like the United States and China, is a big non-homogenous place with non-homogenous traditions.

                                                                                  1. re: 512window

                                                                                    note carefully the words "in general" and "there are exceptions"

                                                                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                    Visited a friend in Paris, after the meal I asked if we can take leftovers home, he reacted in horror and say no one ever does that! But their portions are smaller than those here in North America.

                                                                                2. re: brancron

                                                                                  maybe it's my NYC blinders, but i honestly cannot think of a single place that brings you a box to pack your own

                                                                                3. You mentioned the restaurant name, but were not specific what type of restaurant it is, not being from the Boston area, it is hard to evaluate things. In general, no - it would not bother me. I would always prefer to do it myself, but I understand in a fine dining situation that would be less than appropriate.

                                                                                  I assure you that if they do it in the back, they do not go find a brand new sparkling clean set of serving utensils and carefully lift your leftovers off the plate and into a container or group of containers they have specifically chosen for your particular leftovers. They will probably use your silverware and scrape it off the plate exactly as they did tableside. If you prefer not witnessing this take place, just ask your server to "please take this into the back and package it for me to take with me." If restaurant policy or local health codes don't allow this, then the server can respond appropriately.

                                                                                  I do know what you mean about just scraping the whole thing into a clamshell. If I am doing it myself, I am more likely to scrape one item at a time into at least different sections or at least corners of the clamshell and decide for myself which items should be next to which in order to maximize my reheating or whatever. Again, if you want it done right (or at least your way) its better to do it yourself.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                    Bertucci's is a pizza/"Italian" chain.

                                                                                    And you're correct about things get wrapped behind the scenes.

                                                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                      I think I've mentioned this before, perhaps in another thread, but I will not allow the server to take the leftovers away and pack it out of sight. Years ago we were in a fine restaurant and enjoyed an excellent prime rib. My wife can never finish what's in her plate no matter how small the portion. We asked the waiter for a "doggy bag" and he took the plate away to pack it for us. Unfortunately he interpreted 'doggy bag' literally and included bones and scraps from other diners. He thought he was doing us a favor. We didn't realize what had happened until we got back to the hotel and Mrs. G wanted to nibble on the bone which she would not do in public . Needless to say, we tossed the whole thing.

                                                                                    2. It does cast a low-rent pall overt the dinner, especially if, as a previous poster mentioned, you have to have coffee and dessert with a styrofoam box as your guest.

                                                                                      1. Has not happened to me.

                                                                                        We generally like to pack our own so when we know we have leftovers we arrange the leftovers we want to keep. Junk goes on another plate. This works out for the server, if they pack for us, they see the separate groups and generally pack without mixing.

                                                                                        1. Personally I prefer to pack my own because I can see what is going on with my food. I don't usually mind at high end restaurants. I would not want them to pack in front of me though.

                                                                                          1. I prefer to do it myself. That way I know that only the parts of the meal that I actually want get transferred. I'll usually ask for a container, and the restaurant gets bonus points if they have the ones with dividers in them! But it's not uncommon for them to do it for you. I know in Chinese restaurants they take the plate away and bring back neatly packed containers, and our preferred pizza place will remove the whole pizza and bring back a box, but most places they just hand you a foam box to load yourself.

                                                                                            1. I have a tendency to enjoy attractive, cute and artfully arranged food more than slop. Although, I do like one-dish meals, I just prefer things to look nice and be easy to manage.

                                                                                              When I pack a take-out container, I like to do it my own way. I make a tiny fuss by placing things in the container so that, when I open it at home, things look nice, a tiny version of what the original dish looked like on the plate.

                                                                                              If they dump my food in a box, I see it as mush. Oh, and maybe a little got on the edge of the container and is destined for my coat or car seat or, somewhere else I don't want it. Or, even worse, now the table has food that spilled on it. Yep, I've experienced this!

                                                                                              A local Salvadorian restaurant has a server who is beyond skilled. One of his skills is remembering patrons, their likes and their dislikes. He offered to put my food in the container for me ONCE. I didn't have to explain anything, I just said "I can do it" or something simple like that. He knows how long it takes me to eat (for-!$%@!_ever) and brings the container at the right time, every time. He has done this for several years now.

                                                                                              I'd much rather have a server plop a container on the table and walk away than have them try to fondle my leftovers! I know that it is a gesture of courtesy but I don't like it.

                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                                                                                Is there a cultural reason why portions are so large in the US? I have read and heard about the fact on so many occasions. I find it particularly obscene that customers seem to expect such volumes on their plate, surely it isn't needed?

                                                                                                1. re: davidne1

                                                                                                  In my experience, it's an overblown statement that happens far more often at chain-type places. We eat out all the time and haven't really run into the ginormous portions unless it's at a Cheesecake Factory-type place. Most restaurants, at least in our area (Boston proper) have reasonable portions.

                                                                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                    Italian and Spanish/Portuguese are the word offenders from my experience. People want that pound of pasta and pot of rice on the plate....otherwise, the portions are considered small and without value. In defense of the Latin restaurants though, at least they encourage sharing entrees for families.

                                                                                                  2. re: davidne1

                                                                                                    There is an old joke about two little old ladies coming back from a restaurant, when asked about the food the first one says "meh... it wasn't that good" and the second one chimes in with "and they give small portions."

                                                                                                    America, the land of abundance. Big Houses, Big Cars, Big Plates. And yes, big waistlines.

                                                                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                      i've seen fat people in every country i've ever visited, on every continent

                                                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                                                        yes, that is true. but it is also true that americans - ON AVERAGE - are larger, wider. This is not a judgement, it is a simple fact - studies have been done. Please also note i did not use the rather pejorative word FAT. I am pretty sure you will find that ON AVERAGE americans consume more calories than almost any culture.

                                                                                                        But it is more than that. We are proud of it. We flaunt it. And most of us - as a cultural value - prefer bigger portions on our plates. And bigger plates. A 10-1/2 inch plate hasn't been the standard in restaurants in almost a generation. 12 inch plates are normal, and oval plates are becoming more common. People talk about 'small plate' meals, but those small plates are 6 and 8 inches, not 4.

                                                                                                        Cheesecake Factory and Denny's don't serve up those huge portions because they like to throw away food. They do it because people line up to wait for those huge servings. There must be close to 500 restaurants in Waikiki. You can get food from virtually every culture on earth there. None of it is a bargain, not even a hot dog or a spam musubi. But of all those restaurants, from McDonalds to Chili's to Nobu's the one that has a 45 - 90 minute wait 365 days a year virtually from the time they open their doors to the time they close... Is Cheesecake Factory. It's how America eats.

                                                                                                    2. re: davidne1

                                                                                                      I don't know, but I sure wish it would change! When food is too good I have a hard time saving half for tomorrow. I often get a box as soon as I get my food and then immediately place half inside. My box then sits hideously on the table mocking fellow patrons whilst I enjoy my meal. The horror!

                                                                                                  3. I've eaten at a few places that bring you the container to do it yourself, and have been told by a server that it is against the law for them to do it. But I have taken the Safe Food Handling course required here in Ontario for cooks (and servers) and there was no mention whatsoever given to the treatment of leftovers and doggie bags. So I assume it is a restaurant policy set by each place.

                                                                                                    I have no problem taking the uneaten portion of my food home, it rarely happens (if it's good I eat it all-if it isn't I sure don't want it tomorrow!) but on a few occasions I have ordered an app and a main, only to find the app is the size of a main and could have been enough on it's own.

                                                                                                    1. Just reading this thread, and the talk about reducing the tip if the server packs leftovers at the table is disturbing. If it's the policy to do this, what the heck do you expect the server to do? Not do their job as instructed?
                                                                                                      If you dock a servers tip for this perceived slight, then you're just looking for an excuse.

                                                                                                      1. I think that docking the tip is just not the right thing to do. Servers are generally taught to do things a certain way at different restaurants and this was probably just their policy. I rarely clean my plate as I'm pretty small. And I've packed it myself, had it packed at the table, and had it taken away and brought back in a box. I don't prefer any one method. And I never ask for it to be done a particular way, I just tell the server that I'd like to take the rest and they can handle it however they wish.

                                                                                                        1. I'm a lot more squicked out by what could happen to my uneaten dinner when it's out of sight in the kitchen than I could ever be by having it slid into the box at my table.

                                                                                                          10 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                            I truly don't understand this squeamishness about the leftovers going back into the kitchen for packing. If you think they might do something weird with that, what do you think they might be doing to the food they cooked for you--in the kitchen where you weren't--in the first place. If I was that worried, I'd never eat out.

                                                                                                            1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                              I've never worked in food service before but friends of mine told me stories...

                                                                                                              One such story was about the food being taken back, accidentally tossed in the trash and then retrieved to be boxed up to go.

                                                                                                              One other story, (this one is pretty old, from the eighties) was similar, food thrown out accidentally, then someone else's unfinished meal was used to imitate the patron's leftovers that were now in the trash.

                                                                                                              I try to never, ever think about this kind of thing or to think about the movie Waiting. I just send my food back and know it comes back to me in a to-go container. But, being a fairly squeamish person, I can imagine how others who are more squeamish might not want their food going back.

                                                                                                              1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                                                                                                Well, people do like to tell stories. And as my mother used to say, if the story doesn't get better every time you tell it then you're not a very good storyteller.

                                                                                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                  So - are you saying that MM is telling tales? (aka fibbing)

                                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                    No, she said people told her this. There are lots of Urban Legends online that are second hand, third hand, stories that aren't true, but they are fun to tell. I'm not doubting that MM heard those stories at all.

                                                                                                                2. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                                                                                                  If you are worried that these things will happen to your leftovers, why would you eat their food in the first place? You don't trust them to slop half eaten food into a box, but you trust them to use a separate cutting board for raw chicken, and maintain safe temperatures?

                                                                                                                3. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                  In case you missed it, here's a copy of my Mar. 31 post:
                                                                                                                  I think I've mentioned this before, perhaps in another thread, but I will not allow the server to take the leftovers away and pack it out of sight. Years ago we were in a fine restaurant and enjoyed an excellent prime rib. My wife can never finish what's in her plate no matter how small the portion. We asked the waiter for a "doggy bag" and he took the plate away to pack it for us. Unfortunately he interpreted 'doggy bag' literally and included bones and scraps from other diners. He thought he was doing us a favor. We didn't realize what had happened until we got back to the hotel and Mrs. G wanted to nibble on the bone which she would not do in public . Needless to say, we tossed the whole thing.

                                                                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                      That could be, invino. It happened too many years ago for me to remember if I asked for a container or "d-b" .

                                                                                                                4. If at a restaurant like the one you mentioned where container is brought to the table i just usually tell server i will do it myself. Yes i can see why you may feel awkward because some servers do not have the experience or maybe even the time and just hurry and slosh the food into the box , so yes you would get the idea it looked like a plate being scraped into the garbage. I do rather prefer the container brought to me for sanitary purposes as many have mentioned....you know whats going in there if you pack it :) Next time when they reach for the plate..reach for the container and say I will just do it myself and take what i want thank you :) i've never seen a server object :)

                                                                                                                  1. It's fine. You're overreacting.

                                                                                                                    Mind you, when I lived in the NYC/NJ area my leftover food was taken away and packed by the wait person when I wanted to bring my leftovers with me. Ditto when I lived in England, etc. When I first moved to the Mid-West I was quite startled the first time I ate out and had leftovers when the server just brought me the box and left it there. I thought it was insulting and shoddy service but quickly learned from subsequent meals that it was common practice** outside of that tiny spot of land called NYC.##

                                                                                                                    **As well as the practice of packing your food in front of you at the table. I usually assist the waitperson by rearranging/separating my desired to-go food from the to-be-left-behind stuff, or by instructing the waitperson as the process unfolded. I don't mind the box(es) sitting at the table while I conclude my meal, whether at a high-end place or otherwise.

                                                                                                                    ## Note to those who are ready to jump down my throat at this - I LIKE NYC.

                                                                                                                    1. I don't think that tip should be docked for following restauranat policy but I DO wish that restaurant policy was to pack leftovers for me, in the back. I really hate boxing it up myself, and I'm less concerned about having them wrapped perfectly as having to do the work at the table. Not that I'm lazy, but I go out to eat, in part, so that I don't have to clean up after myself, including putting away leftovers.

                                                                                                                      1. Ever since I deliberately ate only half my shrimp pad thai in a rare show of self restraint and had two shrimp stolen when the waitress took the dish in back to pack it I try hard to convince my server to let me pack my leftovers myself. I wouldn't do this at a really high end joint of course.
                                                                                                                        Years ago I worked with a waitress named Bev who loved to snack on leftovers. I remember her eating one quarter of a club sandwich when she was wrapping it up. I was astounded and also surprised that no one yelled at her. She claimed the customers never noticed.

                                                                                                                        1. We returned to Carrabbas last evening after a summer off to find that they had remodeled nicely, but that they have also hired one cocky waiter. Please remind waiters that it is not their job to tell a customer what to do or how to do it. This one kept insisting that it was he who would box the food at the end of the meal and that this was "part of the experience." He made this comment in front of my wife of 51 years and MY GOD, how to belittle a customer! We never allow a waiter to box food because they usually spirit if off to the kitchen out of our sight to do so. We have our own methods and certainly know how to accomplish the matter. I'm not sure that we will return for more of this crap!

                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                          1. re: Allegro92

                                                                                                                            I really prefer to pack our own leftovers. I usually will load up my husband's with stuff from my plate I don't want (he likes leftover fried seafood and I don't) and I load mine with just what I want. It was easier to take them to work the next day. Also, I'm a bit OCD and want everything done in a certain way or I won't eat it, so then what's the point? For example, don't dump moist stuff on top of my crispy stuff.

                                                                                                                            If the server ever insisted to load it away from the table, I won't eat it, so my husband gets all the goods.

                                                                                                                          2. I find that in recent years I have become more sensitive about taking leftover food home from a restaurant. First, if it is on my plate and I have been eating from that plate, with the fork going back and forth between the food on my plate and the unavoidable bacteria in my mouth (face it, this is Great Nature at Work), then the food I carry home is already bacterially contaminated. Refrigeration will somewhat arrest or slow bacterial growth, but a time-lapse occurs between that food going into the container and the container going into my home refrigerator---getting home may take an hour or more, during which time the bacteria-exposed food goes unrefrigerated. Worse, if it sitting in a warm car right under blow from the heater. If a serving is so huge that I anticipate not being able to eat more than half of it and I want to take the rest home, at least I would call for an extra plate or container, first-off, to separate out that food from what I expect to eat. That still leaves the problem of dragging the doggy bag (or swan) cross-country for an hour or so before it goes in the fridge. Yuck.

                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                              I hope you don't bother having the server go through the trouble of packing you leftovers for you.
                                                                                                                              You are too fearful to enjoy, which imo, is a shame.

                                                                                                                              I love leftovers- another meal that I don't have to lift a finger to make, not to mention pay for.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                those are the germs from YOUR body. Highly unlikely to make you ill.

                                                                                                                              2. There sure appears to be an awful lot of people who spend entirely too much time actively seeking a reason to be offended.
                                                                                                                                I have never had a server pack my leftovers. They just put a box on your table and you pack it as you see fit.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: AngelaID

                                                                                                                                  I've experienced both where I'm given a box, and the server taking my meal away to pack.
                                                                                                                                  I don't have a preference and I don't think anyone is spitting on my food.

                                                                                                                                  If I had a preference, I would express it but not be offended if the server had to follow protocol.