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Post-Bariatric Surgery restaurant dining

I recently had bariatric surgery and am slowly adding to my diet which means occasional restaurant meals. I want to start by saying we are very good tippers, and often eat in good local restaurants, usually seafood or steak places. I'd appreciate a server's point of view since I will ask for a box when my meal arrives so I can set a portion of it, usually the majority (since my capacity is much reduced) aside. I don't see this as creating a burden on the server, but it makes me feel cheap! Any advice on dining out post-surgery is appreciated too!

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  1. Ordering off the menu and simply asking for a box is not cheap. Don't worry about it!

    1. If it bothers you why not just eat a small portion from your plate and ask for a box at the end of the meal. If your server asks if the food was ok you can tell him you just had surgery(no details!)and can't eat as much as you used to or say whatever you want to. If you tip very well I don't think your server will really care one way or the other.:-)

      1. Could you order smaller portion items - appetizers and the like - instead of a full meal? My mother only ate small plates at restaurants for her entire life and no one ever raised an eyebrow.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Sherri

          if what you are talking about is going to a restaurant and only ordering one appetizer, i know that there are MANY restaurants in my area that WOULD raise an eyebrow.


          1. re: westsidegal

            Wow, things must have really changed. From your address I assume you are in the West LA area. I grew up in Brentwood, so we're on familiar turf. Over the years, ordering small plates was never a problem - from Scandia in the 1960s to Campanile in the early 1990s to Joe's in Venice last year - this has been the norm. Yes, there are others at the table ordering traditional meals and tipping has always been generous.

            I did say "plates" ('My mother only ate small plates at restaurants for her entire life'). There would always be more than a single plate. We used to joke that she was a trendsetter ordering food this way long before "small plates' became popular. She was not one to nibble a lettuce leaf and call it a meal. It was simply never an issue.

            NB: I have not lived in the area for quite a while but have been a frequent visitor.

            1. re: Sherri

              the last time this happened i was in a persian restaurant in westwood. the restaurant is extremely well-priced, but they do expect that every adult will order an entree.

              basically the issue is one of enough food being ordered to justify occupying the table (especially during the "normal" meal times.)

              "small plates" restaurants don't tend to care as much because their margins are generally higher.
              if i order three vegetable dishes for lunch at gjelina (my favorite small plates restaurant), my tab will be over $30 before tip and beverage and about $50 out the door.

          2. re: Sherri

            My wife is fixing to have gastric bypass and, depending on the type of surgery, you generally can only eat 1/3 cup of food.

          3. Don't worry about what anyone thinks...people ask to take home food all the time. (Perhaps you'd feel more comfortable asking for an extra plate rather than take-home container when your food arrives so that you can discretely portion out what you plan to eat at the restaurant and what you want to take home.)

            I wish you well! My husband had bariatric surgery three years ago and lost (and kept off) 125 pounds. It's been life-changing for both of us.

            1. I think asking for a box at the start of the meal is a pretty common strategy for people on diets. It is no more of a burden that asking for a box at the end of the meal, and shouldn't raise any eyebrows.

              1. If you ask for the box to be brought at the same time as something else (the meal, dessert) so it's not an extra trip for the waitstaff, you are not imposing at all.

                1. Don't give into the temptation to explain. The server doesn't need to know.

                  1 Reply
                  1. On my online weight loss community website, they actually suggest people do this on a regular basis at restaurants. Instant portion control. I don't think it makes you cheap at all! No different than boxing up the leftovers at the end.

                    1. I am 6 years out from surgery, and love to eat out. Order what you want, eat what you want, and ask that the rest be boxed. Say I liked it, loved it, or it was ok, but my appetite is small. Can I take that home?
                      Just don't think you have to "please the help" by consuming what you are served.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: breakfastfan

                        "the help?"

                        interesting choice of phrase.

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          I have been "the help" and it's just a short-handed way of saying the servers, hostesses, bussers and bartenders have never objected and usually ask if everything is alright.

                          1. re: breakfastfan

                            seal uses that phrase too, and means something entirely different.

                              1. re: breakfastfan

                                Seal is the man who was married to Heidi Klum.

                      2. Hi,

                        Feel free to order what you like, if you don't want or feel like an entree, have an appetizer, or soup, or a salad. Take home whatever you can't eat. One thing I try to do whenever I go out is to split an entree with a friend, that works really well, and no one questions it or says anything. No worries!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Michelle

                          Why would they question it? They usally charge a few bucks more around here to split an entree, so it's not really an impostition.

                        2. not a surgery candidate, but I have a small-ish appetite and like to try many things...
                          so often will place the portion I am taking home on a side plate before eating my meal.

                          1. I wouldn't worry about it at all - in fact, you're probably saving your waiter an extra trip at the end to get you a box.

                            While it's not the same, rest assured that you are not alone. I order all sorts of ridiculous combinations at restaurants all the time. I'm dealing with several restrictions here, multiple food allergies, delayed gastric emptying, pancreatic enzyme insufficiencies, and frequent jaw/mouth surgeries, so a lot of times my orders are completely ridiculous. I have found a few restaurants that not only accommodate me, but welcome me happily now, and know exactly what I need.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: jw615

                              basically, most servers at mid-priced restaurants will be happy if:
                              1) you are not a camper
                              2) you tip well
                              3) you are generally pleasant and understanding.
                              4) you order enough food/drink.

                              if you meet all the above, i can't think of any server that would be unhappy about bringing you a box at any time you like EXCEPT at high end restaurants where the boxing is always done in the kitchen.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                Am I missing something here? Are waiters really that "put out" to make an extra trip to get a box or take something back to be boxed? Why are we all concerned about this? We'd never think twice to ask the waiter to make an extra trip to refill a wine glass.

                                1. re: Mellicita

                                  I think it is more the question of handling food guests have eaten. Takeaway of leftovers is GREAT from an environmental and thrift standpoint, but hygiene is just as important.

                                  There is a big hump of ageing boomers, myself included. We need dining options that simply involve smaller food portions.

                                  westsidegal, by definition a person who has had bariatric surgery can't order a lot of food and drink, but he or she is most likely dining with others who can and do. It is a particular medical condition, or more precisely, accomodation, and frankly restaurants should accomodate it - it is in their interests to be flexible if the person is part of a group.

                                  I grew up in "literate poverty" and the thought of wasting good food drives me rather bonkers...

                                  1. re: lagatta

                                    as long as the table, as a whole, orders enough food to justify their taking up the restaurant space and resources, and tips enough to justify taking up their portion of a server's station for that shift.

                                    having bariatric surgery doesn't preclude a person from being financially fair to the restaurant and to the server. the restaurant has fixed costs that don't go away because someone who has had surgery decides to patronize them.

                                    the profit margins of the restaurant, for the most part, are earned during peak meal times. certainly, because a person ( or, sometimes both people at a two top) has had bariatric surgery s/he/they should not expect to behave in a way so that the restaurant and all it's investors are precluded from earning a return on their investment, right?

                                    servers are usually assigned a station for a meal shift. this is their only opportunity to earn tips. the restaurant does not assign them an additional table because some of the patrons in his/her station have had bariatric surgery. certainly, because a person has had bariatric surgery, they shouldn't behave in a way so that the server can't earn the tips that s/he depends upon to support his or her family or themselves, right?

                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                      having worked as a server, who eats what in your station is a crap-shoot. you may get a 4-top who only splits 2 salads for dinner, or a solo diner who orders a $200 tasting menu. it's not the patron's duty to order "enough" food to assuage the server's nerves.

                                      yes, it's a pita when a table is dragging down your check average, but that's part of how things work.

                                      that being said, being courteous and respectful, then leaving a warranted tip for service is enough.

                                  2. re: Mellicita

                                    what did i say that would cause you to conclude that waiters would be "put out" to get a to-go box?

                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                      Westsidegal - you didn't say anything! I was actually supporting your statement that " i can't think of any server that would be unhappy about bringing you a box" I was really more responding to the OPs concern about asking for a box. (Sorry, I didn't mean to sound snarky to your comment)

                                      1. re: Mellicita

                                        ok, i'm clear now.
                                        the only time i've had a server object is when the restaurant policy requires that all boxing be done in the kitchen and if they were to bring a box to the table they would have endangered their job.
                                        didn't mean to jump at you.

                              2. having worked as a server i found it weird when people would ask to box their own food. have worked for chefs who forbid it as well.

                                just eat what you can/want and then ask to take the rest home. no need to explain anything. your server totally does not care. if they do ask if everything was ok, say, "yes, but i have a small appetite." the end.

                                19 Replies
                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  It depends on the locality, but there are jurisdictions that forbid the restaurant staff from boxing food and require the staff to give the container to the patron to do it him/her self.

                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    do they make them prep and cook their own meal too? stoopid nanny state.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      We just got back from Georgia and I am told it is the law there. Seemed to be, because they brought the box without discussion of who was boxing it up. It was everywhere we went, so I think it was true. You get used to it.

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        my guess is that the lawmakers are responding to consumer requests.... some diners lack confidence in the ability of a server to package food in an appropriate manner. Not my experience at all, but I've heard...

                                        1. re: KarenDW

                                          A "finished product" must be handled by rubber gloved hands. "boxing" a meal is handling a finished product. A server usually does not wear rubber gloves, even if required.

                                          Also, the rice that came home with my spaghetti was not on my plate at the restaurant...

                                      2. re: Karl S

                                        No problem- I've gone home with leftovers that were smaller than what I sent back. Not often, but it does give pause, so I'd just as soon box up my leftovers myself.

                                      3. re: hotoynoodle

                                        I like to box my own just because I like to make sure that stuff gets home without mixing too much juicy with dry. If server boxes that's fine too, but he/she doesn't know that I have separate plans for the rice and for the etouffee, or that the fries don't need wing sauce all over them.

                                        I might strategically insert some lettuce leaves, garnish, or asparagus spears to keep everyone in their corners.

                                        Weird? Ya, I guess. But doesn't cost anyone anything extra to just hand me a box and let me play. :)

                                        1. re: DuchessNukem

                                          having only worked in high-end dining i can only imagine some of my chefs having coronaries watching this, lol.

                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                            Lol. But high-end venues don't just slosh the entire plate into a single pile in a styrofoam clamshell either.

                                            1. re: DuchessNukem

                                              true. :) and left-overs aren't often an issue, except at steak houses.

                                              one chef fought us tooth-and-nail for 2 years before he finally started buying to-go containers. yes, the portions were not typically american-sized, but imagine trying to explain to a guest she couldn't take the rest of $150 dinner home!

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                I'd be a ranting raving toxic dragon if somebody tried to tell me that, hotoynoodle. I'd pick the damn plate up with the food on it, take it home, put my leftovers up, wash the plate, and bring it back the next day. Or so I like to think. And in my darkest dreams, I'd wing that plate at the person who tried to tell me I couldn't take my $150 steak home with me. That's not reality, more like me in a kung fu movie, but then I'm digressing wildly.

                                                1. re: EWSflash

                                                  i don't blame you. but would you be ranting and raving at the poor server who agreed with you but had no choice?

                                                  so easy to shoot the messenger.

                                              2. re: DuchessNukem

                                                I remeber my leftover steak being trimmed and the veggies being put in tiny containers and everything packed into a heavy duty paper bag with handles. with reheating instructions.... it was so nice

                                            2. re: DuchessNukem

                                              <<doesn't cost anyone anything extra to just hand me a box and let me play. :)>>

                                              depends on the ambiance that the restaurant is trying to maintain.
                                              after all, it doesn't "cost anything" for people to be sitting all around the restaurant talking incessantly on cell phones.
                                              nevertheless, for many restaurants this type of behavior is, by policy, not permitted because it will diminish the ambiance that the restaurant has taken pains to create.

                                              it wouldn't "cost anything" for children who accompany their parents to a high-end restaurant to bring their computer/phone games with them and play these at the table.

                                              i would look at "playing" with your food as an accommodation that the restaurant may or may not choose to extend.

                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                Well yes, but in this case, there is the matter of accomodating people with a disability (or rather, means of overcoming said disability). As well as common courtesy - it does balance out - there are people who will eat and drink far more.

                                                1. re: lagatta

                                                  <accommodating people with a disability (or rather, means of overcoming said disability)>

                                                  I'm reading this thread with interest but what 'disability' are you talking about? Did I miss something?

                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                    that confused me too. i don't see how elective surgery qualifies as a disability?

                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      In the case of my friend who had this surgery, it definitely was NOT elective. This person could very well have died. A disability in terms of severe restrictions on food intake afterwards. However friend is still relieved, as health status has much improved, and the person can move about normally, exercise and find clothes to fit.

                                                      Many consider morbid obesity a disability as well. It is a very different situation from some pudge, or middle-aged spread, as it prevents the exercise needed to get fit again, even with a very strict diet.

                                                      1. re: lagatta

                                                        so what would prevent these "disabled" people from ordering a meal and taking some of it home?
                                                        their 'disability" doesn't seem to preclude them from taking up table space and station space at peak restaurant times.

                                                        as for things "balancing out" in some restaurants that happens because the owners/managers find indirect ways discourage such folks from ever returning.

                                                        almost all successful restaurants must, as a matter of survival, find ways to keep the tables full of people who buy a reasonable amount of food/drink, behave reasonably, stay a reasonable amount of time, and tip reasonably

                                                        it's one thing if these "disabled" people order a normal dollar amount of food/drink and take some home. it's another thing if they are camping out and not supporting the costs of the restaurant.

                                          2. Psh. If you're a woman, bring a food container in your purse. I bring my own since I hate styrofoam. I occasionally get a weird look but I've never had a server say anything.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Hobbert

                                              Even if you are a man, you can carry some kind of bag; nowadays portable bags are common so as not to use plastic ones. (And some look very nice). Those locking boxes are very nice for replating leftovers, and have a surprising capacity for a small size.

                                              1. re: lagatta

                                                Yup, very true. The Container Store has a ridiculous selection. I can't go there too often :)

                                                1. re: Hobbert

                                                  They are Snap Lock containers by different names. I have some sets of them from "Lock & Lock". These are clear plastic, but BPA free. I also have glass ones, but prefer the plastic ones for takeaway. We go to some fairly casual local places where the portions are too large for a lady over 50, even without special needs. A friend had bariatric surgery so I am aware of the issues, but when they were visiting here we knew a pleasant place with small dishes.

                                                  I simply prefer food in snaplocks to those styrofoam dishes, which tend to spill and leak.

                                            2. I had bariatric surgery in May, 2005, and am now down to the size I was as a sophomore in high school. *Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.* The major thing I've learned, eight years out, is that it's not what you eat, it's how much you eat. I am totally full after three or four large tablespoons of food. An appetizer is often enough to fill me up. A few weekends ago, we went to a wonderful restaurant before a play and hubby and I split a caesar salad and a seafood carbonnara entree. I took half of my salad and almost three fourths of the pasta home..from my *half* of the *half*. I can live on the leftovers of a regular entree for several days. And I'm never afraid to ask for a box at the end of the meal. I paid for the food and it's mine to take home. I'm often asked by competent waitstaff if there was something wrong with the food, as there is always so much left over. And I just simply smile and say, *It was wonderful, but I don't eat much at one sitting.* They are simply happy to know that I was pleased with the meal and I do tip them well. My 'fridge is always full of leftover boxes so hubby and I have a 24-hour rule. My leftovers are mine for 24 hours and then after that, anything is fair game :=)

                                              1. Don't worry about it. When the obvious question arises in a nice restaurant, just explain how much you enjoyed the food (chefs and quality servers have huge egos) and offer no excuses. No reason to feel guilty, though, please don't ask for separate containers for each item on your plate.

                                                1. Does nobody else split plates? My take is, if you're taking food home, you ordered too much.

                                                  10 Replies
                                                  1. re: pdxgastro

                                                    Not everyone wants to eat the same thing as their dining partner. And especially in the case of post-gastric surgery, many of us can't eat what others are eating.

                                                    Portion sizes at restaurants have been discussed many times before.

                                                    1. re: tracylee

                                                      Your bariatric surgeon *should've* given you a card explaining that you need to order from the children's menu (or small portions). My hubby and I have both had gastric bypass and only had a problem once, when a buffet (not local to us) required us to show the cards. (I guess they were concerned about patrons lying about bariatric surgery and pigging out!).

                                                      1. re: Chowbird

                                                        not every restaurant has a children's menu.

                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          And some restaurants have quite unappealing children's menus.

                                                        2. re: Chowbird

                                                          Do they have a different buffet for children?

                                                        3. re: tracylee

                                                          Oh, I haven't had any issues myself. Restaurants have always accommodated me, including letting me order from the "senior" menu, especially if I'm dining with a group of seniors.

                                                          It's been 4 years for me, and it wasn't elective or for weight loss.

                                                          I was just stating why splitting plates isn't an option for some diners.

                                                          1. re: tracylee

                                                            Yes, I know weight loss is not the only reason for this procedure. I was only talking about the case of a friend who had it. Not elective at all, in that case.

                                                        4. re: pdxgastro

                                                          many restaurants will charge a splitting fee.
                                                          imho, this is completely reasonable.

                                                          restaurants are on the hook for all of their fixed costs whether an entree is ordered for each person or whether an entree is split.
                                                          the splitting fee helps the restaurant meet their fixed costs.

                                                          1. re: pdxgastro

                                                            I rarely finish an entire dish. I love restaurants that do half portions, though! And I usually don't want what my husband wants...plus he's a 6'4" CrossFit fanatic. There is no sharing...

                                                          2. I don't see how ordering a meal, tipping well, and taking part of the food home is cheap (?) Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

                                                            I have a small appetite, so I frequently just order a bowl of soup and salad... or a salad + appetizer as entrée. If I go all out and order a big entrée I almost always take part of it home. My point of view is that the restaurant is there to serve ME. So I order whatever I want, behave politely, and tip appropriately. I really don't care what some irrelevant waiter's opinion of me is!

                                                            I think you are feeling more self-conscious than needed, which I can understand given how strict a bariatric diet can be.... but I bet you most people will never notice if you just ask for what you want/need and don't make a fuss about it.