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Mar 5, 2011 02:33 AM

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 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.