Should restaurants allow leftovers to be taken away?
We've all done it - ordered a bit too much at a restaurant. Maybe our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, maybe someone wanted that extra starter and we couldn't say no but that's okay as leftovers can always be packed up and eaten later. But what if the restaurant has a policy of not allowing unconsumed food to be parcelled up and taken off the premises? Well, that's exactly what happened when I had at least half of a delicious dish left over at a DIFC restaurant recently. The conversation went like this:
"What do you mean I can't take my leftovers home?"
"Sorry ma'am, it's the restaurant policy, we don't allow take out, as we can't assure the food will be safe to eat when it leaves the premises".
"Hmm, well, don't worry; I can sign a waiver form saying I take full responsibility for what happens to me once I take my food away. Moreover, this was a fully paid for meal with friends, not a media lunch or blogger freebee."
Interestingly, I enquired at the London branch of the same restaurant and they said they would have no problem about leftover food being taken home by diners! But they politely pointed out that, of course, each country had its own regulations.
A few enquiries from friends mirrored my experience, and when you're entertaining a larger group at a high-end restaurant and you can't take home leftovers, that hurts your wallet and you lose your appetite for returning. So, how do you gauge the right amount of food to order so that there's no wastage? I didn't see the restaurant in question printing any notice about the 'No Take-Out' policy, but maybe I should have asked before I ordered? Their web page doesn't indicate this either. But they also don't deliver food. Of course, one occasion when leftovers shouldn't be allowed to be taken away is at a buffet, for obvious reasons. But if you agree to sign a waiver, then maybe that's a risk both the restaurants and diners should take on à la carte dishes? What do you think? Would you doggie bag it - or not order that dish in case you can't finish it?
Monica Kapila is a travel journalist and blogger behind www.doindubai.com. Follow her for an honest take on Dubai life @doindubai on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
As customers, we feel entitled to have the option to parcel our leftover food. Especially because we're paying for it and we all know it gets tossed in the trash after it leaves our table. Why not pack it up and either eat it the next day or give it to someone who needs it more than you do?
Having worked in kitchens, I can safely say that the health and safety department of the municipality is very strict (for our own benefit). And parcelling food can be very risky when customers aren't aware of how to handle the leftovers. Especially if it's temperamental food like fish, for example, that needs to be stored in the fridge as soon as possible and re-warmed to a certain temperature otherwise, it's more than possible that bacteria can form and cause food poisoning - which can then be blamed on the outlet you packed the food from. Of course, as customers, we don't have refrigerated vans, or cold/hot boxes to transport the food when we leave a restaurant.
So, when certain eateries don't allow takeaways, sometimes it's not because they can't be bothered to stock up on disposable packaging. It's simply them trying to protect themselves and customers from a bigger problem. Of course, waivers seem to be a happy medium. That is where the customer has to sign a form that states they are taking and transporting the food at their own risk, an option a lot of restaurants are now opting for.
I, personally, always love taking my food back home with me, saving myself from worrying about breakfast the next morning or dinner later that night. It also avoids wastage, which is something I think needs serious evaluation in the hospitality industry in Dubai. But as someone who worked in the kitchens of five-star hotels and is still currently working in the food industry, I do understand how temperamental food can be and how sensitive it is to temperature changes, especially considering the climate in UAE is quite harsh - I can sympathise with outlets that are a bit weary of parcelling leftovers.
Nadia Parekh is a chef and the blogger behind www.melangeme.com. You can follow her on Instagram @melagedubai and Facebook @melangedxb