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Bringing food/coffee into another shop

Say there were a good coffee shop that sells bad baked goods and a good bakery nearby that has bad coffee. Would you suck it up and get a bad coffee/good baked good, good coffee/bad baked good or bring one to another (assume there is nothing else in the area)? If the latter, which would you bring?

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  1. I'd get them both to go and eat in the car. Whichever shop you carry something into is going to have some words for you, and life's too short to court that kind of flak first thing in the morning.

    5 Replies
    1. re: mcsheridan

      This was my thought, too--take both to go and find a bench somewhere. I had this discussion w/ people IRL and the responses surprised me. I thought I'd survey CHers to see if I were that off. I didn't think about being talked to by staff but it seems wrong to bring food from one place to eat elsewhere even if you buy something.

      1. re: chowser

        The bench (depending on the area) is certainly a better option than the car. :)
        And yes, life is also too short to eat bad pastry or drink bad coffee (and I say that as a life-long tea drinker - I still get it.)

        1. re: chowser

          In general this was my thought - but the one area where I'd perhaps push this boundary would be if either establishment had outdoor seating. I can think of a good bakery with bad coffee and a good coffee house with mediocre baked goods. While neither establishment is near one another - they both have outdoor tables where I don't think I'd have any issue bringing out "other" food. The coffee house in particular which has become one of those "quasi office spaces" - I've seen numerous folks, particularly outside, munch on other snacks.

          I think a lot of it depends on the nature of the space. This kind of coffee house has outdoor seating with no service component. So while it's not the same as a nearby park bench, it feels more in line with that. Also while they have baked goods, it's not as though there's a strong food emphasis.

          1. re: cresyd

            Outdoor seating is another question, too. People here have felt free to bring food to a food court and not buy any (an old thread) and I thought that was odd, too. Obviously never bring food if you're being served but take out outdoor seating? Would it be wrong if one person bought food at McD's and the rest of the group had Wendy's and the McD's person sat w/ friends outside? So many shades of gray.

            1. re: chowser

              I think that this is definitely a case by case judgment call. Both places I initially mention are establishments that I'm very familiar with, and in the case of the coffee shop - I've seen people bring out Kind bars n such (inside) when they sell those brands of protein bars there.

              Same thing with a bar that doesn't sell food-food other than bags of chips or whatever. I know some of those bars that are beyond ok with people ordering in food, bringing in food, etc. And others don't mind if it's more discrete - but aren't looking for you to bring in a multi-course meal for a dinner party.

              Basically I just don't think it's a one size fits all. Use your judgment and understand that some folks might be more sensitive based on their bounds of etiquette.

      2. Neither is acceptable. If both shops sell both types of comestibles, it would be wrong to bring something from one shop into the other.

        1 Reply
        1. re: janniecooks

          The other question that came up is what if they didn't sell the other? A coffee shop that only sells coffee. Can you bring a baked good there? I don't think I'd ever bring food into an establishment to eat, unless previously cleared, whether they sell it or not.

        2. Absolutely neither. You do not bring the food/drink of one food/drink establishment into another.

          1. If the shop sells both, it's kind of bad form, but not a mortal sin as I see it.

            1. Once I was with my sons at a pho place, slurping away. A family sat down, 2 parents and a 7ish boy. They opened up a big McDonald's bag and pulled out happy meal for the kid and large fries for the adults. Then ordered 2 bowls of pho.

              The waiter didn't say a thing but my kids were appalled.

              26 Replies
              1. re: tcamp

                tcamp: This is a good example to me where it is unacceptable. Bringing McD's smell, and wrappers, etc, into a pho place is crazy.

                However, to the larger question, I think sometimes the restauranteur has to look at things from the customer's perspective. Coffee shop and bakery are a good example. If people want to bring other coffee into the bakery, the bakery owner ought tot think about that. Why is that necessary? Is my coffee that bad? Maybe if they upgrade coffee their business will do better overall.

                I can see bringing a better beverage into a restaurant, if you are sitting down and ordering a meal for 10-20 bucks. We have a diner with poor coffee. My girls used to bring in coffee and then order a big breakfast. Now there is a sign up saying "no outside food or drink." That's pretty defensive, to me. I can agree for food, but think about the quality of your coffee! And think about pleasing your customers.

                1. re: woodburner

                  I think there are also places that benefit from such an arrangement. When I was a teenager, I worked at a Starbucks near a bagel store (that sold coffee) where the seating was less attractive. By looking the other way at folks who brought in their bagels, there was a greater chance of people buying coffee at all, purchasing refills, etc. Not to mention stealing coffee sales from that bagel place.

                  While I think McD's in an indoor pho place does cross the line in my opinion - there are always less aggressive versions, like parents who bring in Cheerios for young children and don't order them any food. I do think that issues like smell and distraction come into play with all other issues presented. But yeah - none of this is black and white to me.

                  1. re: woodburner

                    in many places it's health codes, not defensiveness.

                  2. re: tcamp

                    One one hand, I get bringing something for the kid if they don't eat pho, but Micky D's is smelly.

                    1. re: monavano


                      I can imagine the smell of Micky D's may not be something a devoted pho eater (like myself) wants to smell while eating.

                      1. re: latindancer

                        Greasy and weird smell vs. heavenly spices wafting over you.

                        1. re: monavano

                          I have a pho shop I frequent here in LA.
                          I honestly can't imagine anyone bringing Mickey D's in there and not being confronted by the waitstaff.
                          They'd probably be run out with a broom along with all the clientele chasing them.

                          1. re: latindancer

                            It's an affront to pho, and should be defended vigorously!

                    2. re: tcamp

                      "Then ordered 2 bowls of pho"

                      at least they ordered something. i saw someone come into a restaurant and brought out a banquet of food out of her bag.

                      and ordered a diet coke.

                      1. re: tcamp

                        At Jacques Torres's chocolate shop, people brought in pizza to sit at their tables and didn't buy anything (there were tables outside in the food court so I didn't get that at all). The workers handled it very well and told the customers they could bring pizza in but need to keep the lid on because any heavy smells will permeate the chocolate and affect the taste. I was just surprised that anyone thought it would be okay to bring pizza into a chocolate shop.

                        1. re: chowser

                          I think that bringing food into another establishment is far more about the "spirit of the law" rather than the "letter of the law". I could see a wide variety of fast food no service chains not caring if a group of three came in, ordered food, and then were joined by another person who brought food from elsewhere. I also would not be embarrassed to be part of that group.

                          However, if a group of three went to a smaller privately owned no service lunch place and then were joined by another person who brought food from elsewhere, I imagine an increased likelihood of staff saying something. I would also be far more inclined to be embarrassed being part of that group (provided there wasn't some kind of discrete outdoor seating).

                          But because I don't necessarily see there as being a rigid form of etiquette that wouldn't have 101 contingency plans - it's likely that there will always be folks who grossly overstep what others think is appropriate. Like pizza in a chocolate shop.

                          1. re: cresyd

                            <spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law>

                            How many people, truthfully, follow the spirit of the law?
                            I think it's why I see so many signs outside restaurants asking people to not bring in outside food.
                            Apparently there's a problem with this.
                            It's like someone bringing a tuna sandwich onto a plane full of people.

                            1. re: latindancer

                              At my teenage time working in Starbucks - I couldn't say that I saw anyone grossly overstep the bounds. No one ever had a pizza delivered or brought in Chinese take away for a group of 6 (I used to frequent a bar though where this was common/accepted practice. The bar served no food other than chips but eventually started having forks around if you asked).

                              I honestly think the problem is that people look to "the policy". They want to see the fine print, and then find a way to function within the policy as best suits their own interests but ultimately leads to more and more restrictive policies. I think this is also because people in general and the corporate world in particular is so confrontation adverse that instead of being like "yes, we don't have a dress code/outside food/children policy - but what is happening in this instance is so inappropriate that we're asking you to leave/change/stop".

                              To me there's a huge difference between a parent bringing Cheerios for a child in a restaurant versus a McD's happy meal. But how do you write that specific policy?

                              1. re: cresyd

                                <I honestly think the problem is that people look to "the policy".>

                                So true.
                                It's just plain common sense not to bring that Mickey D's into a pho shop, for various reasons, one of which is the smell. I can't imagine doing the same thing in a high-end artisanal chocolate shop.
                                Why people insist on pushing the limits is beyond me and that's precisely why there're those signs. There was a time when those signs wouldn't have been needed.
                                Next thing we know there'll be a list of foods, like tuna, not allowed on the planes directed at the idiots who're more concerned with their own needs than the possibility of offending someone else.

                              2. re: latindancer

                                Most people know how to follow the spirit of the law. It's the few jerks who don't that ruin it for everyone else.
                                Most people have common sense, and don't, for example, start a thread on CH about what stinky cheeses they should bring on a long plane flight!

                                1. re: monavano


                                  I remember that thread.
                                  Perfect example.

                                  1. re: latindancer

                                    Is that thread still around here by any chance? I'd like to read it:-)

                                    1. re: miss_belle

                                      I remember a discussion about this some time ago…
                                      I don't remember if it was the actual OP or one of those discussions that went off topic.

                            2. re: chowser

                              Crazy stuff.

                              If I was the owner I'd have asked them to leave with their pizza in hand. Who needs people like that in their shop?
                              Chocolate, especially artisanal chocolate, will pick up any smell/taste it comes in contact with.

                              1. re: latindancer

                                And it's so labor-intensive, which makes it insulting, too.

                            3. re: tcamp

                              That could be a cultural issue. One thing I like about living in Thailand is that it is perfectly fine to bring food from one shop to another, particularly if a group want to dine together. If it's the same in Vietnamese culture, then that may explain why the waiter was unconcerned.

                              1. re: tcamp

                                My Aunt did that at my sister's wedding reception (brought in McDonald's for her sons) - I guess she was being practical, they boys were small and would not have eaten what was served, and you don't want two hungry kids to start acting up and making noise... but I do remember some of the other guests commenting on it.

                                1. re: tcamp

                                  My daughter had a tea party (I hate how that word has been usurped politically) at the Ritz Carlton when she was younger. One mom gave me a bag of food for her daughter, in case she didn't like anything. I didn't know what to say but didn't want not to give it to her and make waves. So, I ordered her a tea at $20 and everything sat there untouched while she ate her Cheetos.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    I love that idea for little girls.
                                    It sounds like you sucked it up and let the girls have their experience.
                                    Peace @ $20 ;-)

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      You handled the situation very graciously. As the mother of a very picky eater, I appreciate parents like you!

                                  2. I have brought my travel mug with my own blend of half caf coffee into several restaurants but always asked the waitress first if it was "okay". Always was told it was okay and thanked for asking- I would have left it in the car if it was a big deal. One was a breakfast joint that served coffee and the others were pizza places that may have served coffee- don't know. When I lived in Boston people brought their Dunkin' Donuts drinks everywhere. Kind of tacky but the norm.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Berheenia

                                      LOL, on the Dunkin Donuts. I was thinking that, too, because people,here have Starbucks cups permanently attached to their hands so they bring them everywhere.

                                    2. I would bring the good baked goods into the good coffee shop. I'm assuming it's a regular coffee shop - people come in and out, people on their laptops working, people meeting to catch up. You can be more discreet about these things in a coffee shop than in a bakery (at least that's my experience). ive brought and ive seen people bring all sorts of things into starbucks.

                                      if the coffee shop is more formal or is completely empty, than i probably wouldnt do it unless the baked good is something that isnt so out there (like bringing out a baguette or a slice of cheesecake).

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: majordanby

                                        Informal places where you order at a counter and take the stuff to your table is fine, I think.
                                        Starbucks is a good example. Their stuff is expensive and if I bring a muffin from home, I can afford their coffee more often.
                                        I think it unwise to pick this fight, as an owner or management.
                                        Of course, there are limits, but being friendly brings repeat business.

                                        1. re: monavano

                                          And Starbucks' overpriced pastries are often not very good.

                                        2. re: majordanby

                                          Both informal order at the counter and sit down.

                                        3. There's a (roast pork) sandwich place called John's in Philly. There are a couple of benches, but it's right across from a factory that, during weekdays, emits some awfully unpleasant odors. I went with a friend to the Ikea right by John's, at which we went upstairs to eat in the cafeteria. We didn't plan on buying anything at the cafeteria, but dessert got the better of us.
                                          No one said anything.

                                          Though, I do gag at the sight of particularly odoriferous foods when boarding a plane/bus...


                                          1. I can think of a few places in LA that post their request of not bringing outside food in to their eating establishment.
                                            I agree with the request.

                                            10 Replies
                                            1. re: latindancer

                                              If there's clear signage, then you comply.
                                              Other situations are more nuanced.

                                              1. re: monavano

                                                In this town of entitlement you'd be amazed at, even with the signage, the people who'll push the limits and do it anyway.
                                                It's like the dogs in the supermarkets. Signage doesn't apply to them.
                                                These people are not clueless.

                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                  I was shocked to read about that on CH.
                                                  That was another, really, ahem, interesting thread!

                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                    I once read in an advice column someone writing in about how she wanted to have her dog registered as an emotional support animal so she would 'have the right' to take the dog everywhere (despite the writer not having PTSD or any other diagnosis to warrant such an animal).

                                                    If one person was thinking about it enough to ask if it was right or wrong to do it - I'm sure there are plenty of others taking advantage of some loosey goose doctor and registering their dog that way.

                                                    Definitely why there's a difference between laws/policies and etiquette.

                                                    1. re: cresyd

                                                      What's weird is writing into an advice column.
                                                      Sounds like the person was trying to justify what they wanted to do.
                                                      Either you can, or you can't and Dear Abbey is the wrong tree to be barking up.
                                                      Sorry...couldn't resist.

                                                      1. re: monavano

                                                        Well, as opposed to a can or can't this was a should or shouldn't.

                                                        But at least that person paused and thought "maybe this isn't the right thing to do - I'll ask someone else". I'm sure there are plenty of others who figure as long as they complete all the paper work why not. And others just happy to say "this an emotional support animal" presuming that no business would actually check for documentation.

                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                          Ugh. I love my dog dearly and she goes with me almost everywhere. But not where she's not legally allowed or welcomed. The idea of faking some sort of support thing is appalling.... HOWEVER, there are support dogs that are very legitimate, and they may not look like what you think they would look like. It's a fine line to walk for business owners in how they approach this. Why can't people just be honest?

                                                          1. re: Firegoat

                                                            In the state of California a store owner can be sued, by the owner of the dog, for asking certain questions about why the dog is in the store. I've easily thought the person bringing the dog (the ones that aren't legal) into the store wants to be confronted and asked the question(s) from the owner. As if setting up the law suit.
                                                            It's a crazy world.

                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                              There is no federal or state licensing process for legit service dogs, so there are no "papers" for the ones that are very much needed. And people are not required to disclose their disability to random shopowners in order to have a service dog. The few people brazen enough to lie about their dogs are a small price to pay for people who need them not being constantly harassed. That's why those laws are in place.

                                                              Back on topic: In this hypothetical situation, is one staying or going at shop 2?

                                                              I see people do this all the time (I walk past a lot of coffee shops on my way to/from the commuter train) when both items are to go -- as long as you wait to start consuming until on your way.

                                                              If staying and these are casual order-at-counter joints, I would carry a travel mug, fill it at Good Coffee, and sit down at Good Pastry. Don't hide the mug furtively but don't be obvious that you're bringing coffee in.

                                                              1. re: antimony

                                                                <The few people brazen enough to lie about their dogs are a small price to pay>

                                                                There's a very big price to pay to the law abiding citizens, like me who loves my dog, who don't want the dog in the market…more and more there're people bringing their unlicensed dog into places they're not allowed.
                                                                It's why there's new legislation being looked at in the state of California for this very reason. It's obnoxious and
                                                                people are complaining, according to many food markets I frequent.
                                                                I believe the whole thread (bringing food/coffee into another shop means they're staying. Would anyone really complain if a person bought a donut at one shop and a coffee at another shop and then went directly outside to eat/drink them?

                                              2. I wouldn't do either. It just seems impolite.

                                                1. Hmmm-I wouldn't think twice about walking into a bakery with my travel mug already filled. I make my own coffee at home and usually have it with me in the AM. On weekends I often hit the bakery next door to WF to pick up breakfast and then eating on the bench outside before grocery shopping.

                                                  1. There's a taco place near my apt that does a delicious breakfast. They sell coffee, but not iced coffee, which I prefer. When I asked if they had iced coffee, the owner told me I could run next door and get an iced coffee from the coffee shop next door while my food was being cooked.

                                                    Had he not encouraged me to do that, I probably would have gotten either a hot coffee or a soda. But I so appreciated the gesture that I tipped the price of the coffee on top of the normal tip I left and I became a regular patron of their breakfast (and I always bring in an iced coffee.)

                                                    So yes, it's rude if it's not explicitly okay with the owner, but a restaurant owner can definitely win over a customer by being okay with it.

                                                    1. I'd bring the good coffee into the good bakery.

                                                      1. I was confronted with this today! Generally I'm in the "no" camp when it comes to bringing food from one establishment into another.

                                                        My boss needed to drop her car off at the repair shop so I picked her up. She asked if I'd take her to Whole Foods so she could get a salad. She asked if I wanted anything. I said no, as I had a sandwich from a sub shop in my car.

                                                        "Go grab your sandwich and we'll eat here!"

                                                        Uhhhhhhh.... *immediately thinks of Chowhound* Suuuuure!?

                                                        I ran out to my car, jammed the sandwich into my purse, bought a drink from Whole Foods, then joined my boss at one of their outdoor tables.

                                                        I felt ok about it, mainly because we were outside away from employees. Who knows if anyone would have cared but I'm a rule follower by nature.

                                                        1. I had a friend who used to bring bread from the health food store into restaurants. I don't know if any restaurants ever objected to it, but it irritated me and others who dined with him. It's not in the spirit of having a restaurant meal.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: ebchower

                                                            Reminds me...my MIL brings rice cakes to restaurants. Drives me INSANE!!

                                                            1. re: jbsiegel

                                                              This makes me wonder what kind of restaurant serves such bad food that someone would feel compelled to bring her own cardboard cakes? ;)

                                                              1. re: Isolda

                                                                Ha ha! Personally, I can't imagine, but she seems incapable of just ignoring the bread basket and needs something to munch on.

                                                            2. re: ebchower

                                                              It's like a potluck meal in a restaurant! 'Thanks, I've brought my own coffee and bread..."

                                                            3. A while back Dateline did a feature on a burger chain (Smashburger), and it was filmed at a location I've been to. The CEO was on hand to be interviewed. I know there's a coffee shop next door (Au Bon Pain), and I observed one of their coffee cups at a table in the burger joint. I thought it looked cheesy. I don't blame places for having a "no outside food" policy