Doggie bag: Taking home left-overs from restaurants

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Roi Marphille, Oct 18, 2005.

  1. Roi Marphille

    Roi Marphille Senior Member

    Catalonia, Catalan.
    Hi to all!
    for some of us, this doggie bag practise is really really odd.

    Do you ask for the doggie bag in your countries?
    I don't really know how it works, I it a normal practise in any kind of restaurants?
    Do people ask it for the dogs or for themselves? or both?
    Do you think it is something to be ashamed off, embarrassed?
    What do you guys think about it?
    In my country you can ask for a doggy bag in a restaurant but it is something not common and sometimes leads to embarrassments. Normally people may do it if they know the owner of the restaurant quite well. Never to be done in high-class restaurants.



  2. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    That's an interesting question, Roi. I can only speak for "doggy bag" practices in the US, as I've never asked for one while visiting other countries.

    First, and foremost, the term "doggy bag" has, at least where I am from, lost its favor. Now, people tend to ask for a "take-home box," or simply box.

    In most "casual" (a step above fast food) and "medium" (jacket, but no tie required) dining experiences, any astute waiter will ask you if you would like a box, if you have food left on your plate. Of course, you can also just ask for one if they do not offer it. It is a perfectly normal and acceptable practice. Afterall, you just paid for that food.

    I would hesitate to ask for one in a very elegant restaurant, unless, of course, they were to offer one.

    It is an ABSOLUTE no-no to ask for them in buffets or cafeterias, unless you are going to the cafeteria only to purchase food to take home, and not eat in that restaurant.

    To be honest, in some restaurants, I have been known to ask for a box at the beginning of a meal and will then box up at least half, if not two-thirds, of my meal before I even take one bite. I do this mainly because the portion sizes in so many US restaurants are out of control and much too large for a normal-sized person to eat.

    It will be interesting to see other cultural perspectives on this, as I have never experienced this outside of my own country. Of course, in those instances, I am also usually travelling, and it is not convenient to take a "doggy bag" back to the hotel room.
  3. Monnik

    Monnik Senior Member

    Yo, en México; mi corazón, en Madrid
    Mexico - Spanish/English
    Hola, Roi...

    In Mexico (and I'll write in English so that all will understand), it was not something people would do very often until some years ago, but now what you do is simply ask the waiter/waitress to give you your food "to go". As in your case, it is not done at fancier restaurants, but rather at more casual ones.


  4. Citrus

    Citrus Senior Member

    Español / México
    Hi !!!

    From Mexico, I can say that it's a very common practice, although it's not called a "doggy bag" . . . we say "para llevar" (to go) . . . for example:

    I would say to a waitress "Can you put this to go please?"

    I've done it (and see it done) in almost every kind of places, . . . except in buffets as GenJen54 has pointed out. ;)

    There even are some really expensive restaurants where the "packaging" where they put the food "to go" is printed and has a special design. Some have a look of innovation to them that makes you WANT to ask for part of your food "to go". :D

    In a more personal note: I rather take the food I couldn't eat with me and eat it later or give it away to someone who needs it that have it thrown away.


    Mónica . . . we were writing at the same time!!!
  5. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
    My experience in the U.S. and Mexico has been the same as Citrus', Monik's and GenJen's:
    Since restaurant portions are very big, I'll often share a plate with the person I'm with... it's usually worth the "extra-plate" charge. Otherwise, everyone will get their own plate and we'll box up the rest -- which is often the equivalent of another full meal! Asking for "a to-go box" or a "take-home box" (never a doggy bag!) is almost expected at some restaurants....
    ... although this is a little cheeky, I must say! :D

  6. rob.returns

    rob.returns Senior Member

    Philippines-English, tagalog, spanish, chavacano, tausog, visaya, ilonggo.
    Doggie bags would be better than wasting food.

    But i do agree with some post that buffets and special occasion are exemptions, not unless offered by the guest.

    In our country, we do have a lot of doggie-baggies here, for ourselves, for our loved ones, or plainly for dogs.
  7. BasedowLives

    BasedowLives Senior Member

    haha, i remember being in spain, i don't think this concept existed. i was at a restaurant and since i had no idea how to ask for it i just i asked for it "para llevar" and i just couldn't get what i meant across.

    It's normal for all sit down type restaurants. It's nothing to be ashamed of or embarassed.... I don't see why you should be ashamed of not wanting to let food go to waste. Plus, you have a free lunch for the next day.
  8. nycphotography

    nycphotography Senior Member

    I do be learnin stuff
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    So let me get this straight.... the restaurant is deemed healthy, when eating in, and healthy when ordering takeout, but suddenly becomes a menacing threat to public health when you put previously safe food in a box and take it home? Yeah right.

    If only politicians could be honest and say "because our restaurants and business owners cried like babies, we passed a law protecting them. In order to enhance restauraunt return visit rates, it will now be illegal to take home left overs." I do so hate liars. blah.
  9. Roi Marphille

    Roi Marphille Senior Member

    Catalonia, Catalan.
    hey, I was wondering about the reason! I guess you are right. :tick:
  10. rob.returns

    rob.returns Senior Member

    Philippines-English, tagalog, spanish, chavacano, tausog, visaya, ilonggo.
    I find that law very ridiculous and preposterous. Like they care. They don't.

    Besides its not illegal to order supersize meals for fat people. THinking that this would be also a risk for their health.
    How come the sudden concern?

    "People be aware taking food out would poison you!"-Government.
    ~sigh~..all for the greed of money.
  11. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Going back to the original question, yes, you can ask for a "doggie bag" in my country. My mom does it all the time, hehe. :D
    As others have said, normally we won't ask for a doggy bag in fancy restaurants.

    Well... you won't see everyone in the restaurant doing it. But some people will occasionally ask for a doggie bag.

    Both or either. :D

    It made me a bit embarassed at first. But, if you think about it, we're going to pay the same amount of money for the food, anyway, so why not? Why waste good food just because you ordered a little too much, or lost your appetite?
  12. santi Member

    hi alllllll :D greetings from colombia
    here in my contry we take food home in boxes and usually ask the waiter/tress to give it to us ¨para llevar¨ or ¨to go¨ but never in a fancy restaurant, you understand you have to keep the ¨cache¨or slang for ¨fancyness¨ :cool:
  13. Roi Marphille

    Roi Marphille Senior Member

    Catalonia, Catalan.
    wellcome Santi!

    for all,
    ..mmm...what about to ask for real "doggie food" I mean, bounds and alike..?
    is it common too?
  14. BasedowLives

    BasedowLives Senior Member

    when i had a dog, we usually got dog food from the store
  15. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Perhaps you should state explicitly that by "doggie food" you mean "food for the dogs", not "dog food". :rolleyes:
  16. Roi Marphille

    Roi Marphille Senior Member

    Catalonia, Catalan.
    yep, I meant food to feed dogs :tick:
  17. rob.returns

    rob.returns Senior Member

    Philippines-English, tagalog, spanish, chavacano, tausog, visaya, ilonggo.
    Hygiene laws are hygiene laws, doggie bags are different it's a personal concern not a general or government concern.

    They do care, but not that they do it because they don't want us to be poisoned. It all goes down, to buying another set of your favorite food. Restaurants love people spending their money again. Income on them, tax for the government. Quite a cycle. huh?!
  18. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    The concept of "doggie bag" seems to be limited to the United States. What do people in other cultures do with uneaten food in restaurants?
  19. Alva_1992 Member

    Atlanta, US
    Barcelona, Spanish, Catalan, Galician
    Yes, I think it's quite limited to the US.

    In Spain is really rare to ask for a "doggie bag", although it can be done. It is not common and depending on the restaurant it can look not totally right (especially in pricey restaurants).
  20. mirx Banned

    Not at all in México, that'd be considered completely out of the question, even rude. You can ask for meat leftovers for your dog to your local butcher though.

    And to widen what my countrypeople have alreay said. It is not uncommon in Mexican restaurants to ask for you uneaten food to be packed, but it depends a lot!!! on the people.

    The way I was brought up just wouldn't let me ask for my food "to go", to the contrary my mom's well manners say that one is expected to even leave some remains of the dish in your plate, not doing so would mean you were desperately hungry, which means you are not being fed properly at home, which by itself means bad prestige to the family...and so on and so forth.

    It would be completely acceptable if there was an emergency and you had to leave the restaurant in a hurry, you can then ask with all the confidence that your food be packed. Or make up an excuse that you're sick and that you'd rather eat it later.

    With this, I think, I speak for most of my relatives and aquaintences.

    Stupid, I know, yet true.
  21. sarcie Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    I think these two remarks are quite closely related - a "normal" portion in the States (in my experience) seem to be twice the size of a "normal" portion in most European countries. I live in Munich and while the food here is hearty, the portions are generally just about right. I have never seen anyone ask for a doggy bag here in Germany - I don't think most restaurants have the capacity to offer it (suitable receptacles), because they don't expect it.

    In Ireland "doggy bags" are not a common practice, although I doubt most places would refuse to wrap up some leftovers in tinfoil if you asked (we're generally quite obliging, really! :)). My grandfather always insisted on leaving half of his food on his plate for the dog - our local Sunday dinner destination used to provide him with a little extra from the kitchen, because they knew he wouldn't eat a sufficient amount otherwise. The lucky mutt always got his own Sunday dinner! ;)
  22. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Yes, indeed.

    I have never asked for a doggie bag nor do I know anyone who ever has done so. It is an uncommon practice in German, although I guess a few people do bring receptacles along and take some of the food with them.

    Not in German restaurants. You cannot expect the restaurant to offer suitable receptacles. You would need to bring a box or bag yourself.

    Actually, yes, I do. From a German point of view, it is a quite strange behaviour.

    I would like to add that German portions are reasonably sized and usually can be eaten, at least in most cases. Many restaurants also offer smaller children's or senior's meals, which are also cheaper. There is no need to carry away part of the meal.


  23. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Why, this practice seems to be rather common in Russia. But people would take food with them only in a certain restaurant of American origin.;)
  24. nath1 Senior Member

    Depends in what restuarant you are in I suppose. I certainly would not ask for one in a top restuarant. But in a buffet style then it could be done. I used to get doggy bags when I was in the army. They consisted of pork pie, a chocy bar, and some rather dry cobs that tasted a few days old! I think the word doggy bag may have come from the thought of not wanting leaving any scraps at the end of a meal, so the people took small doggy bags home for their pets!! Well thats my take anyway:)
  25. LaReinita

    LaReinita Senior Member

    East Coast, USA
    USA (Northeast Coast)-Inglés
    I really don't understand what the big deal is or better yet, what is shameful about asking for a box. When I go to a restaurant, I would say 90% of the time, I take almost all of my dinner home with me. After drinking part of my soda, eating a couple of the WONDERFUL dinner rolls/biscuits/breads ( I love Red Lobster and those damn Cheddar Bay Biscuits) that restaurants offer here and then eating a salad, I'm usually almost stuffed. I have no issues with asking for a box to bring the main course with me for a later meal. Especially, since that meal is what I've actually paid for and the rest is just complimentary to the meal. I suppose what someone said earlier is true, that the portions here in the US may be quite large. However, I do not see this as a bad thing, but rather a great thing. I am getting more for my money.:D:p
  26. Mph redux Member

    Catalonia, Catalan.
    that's the point!
    it's actually a CULTURAL thing!!! :tick:

    It's not something about being "good" or "bad", is it?
  27. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Let me add something to my post #23 (I re-read GenJen's and Swiss Pete's posts and realised that my input was a bit one-sided).
    It's pabsolutely normal to come to a cafe and ask to pack your food in a box so you could eat it at home. But if you're eating in this cafe and there is some food left, asking for a box to take this food with you would seem rather strange. Uneaten food is usually left behind.
  28. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    I would have answered like Kajjo for France. Except for
    At least as far as I'm concerned I don't find it weird, I would really like to see it in France. I eat like a child but unfortunately I can't decently ask for a children's menu :(

    Unfortunately we can't take food home, even if you only eat a third of it :( When we want to bring back a bit of meat or bone for the dog (or whatever), we have to do it on the sly & put it in tissues or something ... :rolleyes: (hey, you won't tell them, will you :eek: :D)
  29. LaReinita

    LaReinita Senior Member

    East Coast, USA
    USA (Northeast Coast)-Inglés
    That's terrible. I understand what you're saying, I can't eat much either and this is why I almost ALWAYS ask for a box because I want to be able to enjoy what I've paid for. How sad! I know it is a cultural thing and all, but it seems like a waste of money and food. There are starving children all over the world, but food is thrown away because of shame to ask for a box. I HATE WASTING FOOD!! I feel guilty wasting food.:(
  30. ColdomadeusX

    ColdomadeusX Member

    In Australia, generally it is considered normal to ask for something 'take away'. If you have left overs at the end of a meal (even in some higher class restaurants) it's fine to say that you want to get the rest of your meal 'take away'.
    We don't use the the term "doggie bag" anymore; I was actually a bit confused when I saw the term because it is very old fashioned.
  31. LaReinita

    LaReinita Senior Member

    East Coast, USA
    USA (Northeast Coast)-Inglés
    We don't use that here in the US anymore either. We usually just say "box" or "to-go box."
  32. ColdomadeusX

    ColdomadeusX Member

    I heard that Americans always say 'to go' instead of what we Aussies say- 'take away' is that true?

    (this is completely relevant to the topic as we are talking about take away so please don't delete my post).
  33. LaReinita

    LaReinita Senior Member

    East Coast, USA
    USA (Northeast Coast)-Inglés
    You are correct! I have never said nor heard "take away" box in my life.
  34. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    You probably will not, either - now that half of the world is learning the expression "to go" from the many "Coffee to go"-cafés.

    (What annoys me is that they begin using "to go" in other connections where they had a wonderful expression in their own language all the time.)
  35. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Re-reading some posts I wondered whether the restaurants charge you for the to-go box. Is it free? German restaurants do not provide them and surely would charge for them, if they had such boxes. Do you really expect those restaurants to have them ready for you?

  36. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
    It is a free service offered by every restaurant, with very few exceptions. If a restaurant did not offer the option of a to-go box, then most people would consider that poor customer service.
  37. sarcie Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    What really bothers me is the local Stehimbiss (bakery/sandwich shop/lunch place where you can eat in, standing up, or take away) writing "Kaffee togo" on a sign outside. I thought they were selling some sort of special Togolese coffee the first time I saw it :D. And sadly, it's not the only place I've seen it written like this.

    But don't get me started on German businesses taking English words and using them completely inappropriately to look trendy... ;)
  38. mirx Banned

    I just did this thing in Dublin two days ago, they provided the box for free and didn't seem to mind at all. It made me feel really appreciated and taken into account. I definitely will go back to that restaurant, plus the food was superb.

    I was unsure to ask at the beginning but the waitress was very polite, I asked for an Italian dish that turned to be uneatable, way too spicy, she then offered to bring something else and I ordered a new dish, then I couldn't eat it because I had an upset stomach from the first dish, so I asked her if I could have my new dish packed instead. She said of course and she brought it in a small box in a white bag. I call that customer service.

    Ps: The new dish wasn't charged either!!!
  39. moirag Senior Member

    English, England
    I'm surprised no-one's mentioned the ecological implications of all this packaging "to go". Surely it's even worse than McDonald's, as you're using plates and the electricity in the restaurant, then all the packaging too?
  40. ColdomadeusX

    ColdomadeusX Member

    In most restaurants take away boxes are free for after the meal.
    However, the higher class ones usually charge.
  41. DCPaco Senior Member

    Planet Earth
    Spanish of Mexico/ English of the USA
    I think it might also have something to do with the fact that portions in the US are significantly larger than most places. So, if you were to want to take home something that was left in another country, it might literally be a doggie bag and nothing you'd want to eat. Whereas I've been to restaurants in the US and the portions are so large that you immediately know that you will be taking some of that home.

    In Mexico, I've run into this but at very casual places and it is probably because it has rubbed off because of its proximity to the US...but traditionally, it is seen as a thing of bad taste to ask to take home anything--much like Mirx said, it would imply that you were ill-bred.
  42. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
    The alternative is to waste the extra food. With food costs as expensive as they are in the US, and with people starving all over the world, I'd prefer to save the food and eat it another time, rather than throwing in the garbage.
  43. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    I wonder whether it is allowed that two people share one meal in the US? That would be a solution for your more-than-huge portions.

    By the way, I did not find the prices outrageously in the US. German prices are not smaller per menu, I believe. Of course, the exchange rate of currency makes it difficult to judge this issue objectively.

  44. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
    Of course. Some restaurants charge an extra-plate fee -- less than the cost of a second entree, but more than a single entree -- to bring an extra plate to the person you are sharing with.

    However, what if both people don't want to eat the same thing? ;)
  45. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Sure, I know. In just wondered whether they accept sharing or mind such behaviour.

  46. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    I don't know how about sharing food in a restaurant, but we go regularly to a cafe where they make excellent coffee. The coffee is served in a french press, which is rather big for one person; we usually order one french press and ask to bring a second cup.
    And we aren't even charged for the second cup.
  47. alisonp Senior Member

    English - UK
    This is true. I'm not a coffee-drinker myself, but I believe that some of the coffee chains over here will refill and refill, and even give you "one for the road".

    As for doggy bags, I *have* been to a couple of not too smart Italian-type restaurants where, if the pizza or whatever has been too much for you to cope with in one go, they've offered to box it up for me to take home. It depends on the nature of the food too, I suppose. I can imagine that, in these days of health warnings about how you really shouldn't reheat cooked meat, restaurants would be rather loath to allow you to take a meat dish home with you, in case you got food poisoning or something.
  48. sarcie Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    Ah, here is an interesting one - I think I mentioned in an earlier post that it's not common in Germany to get your leftovers packed up "togo" ;). The one exception I have seen is Italian pizza places - most of these restaurants also offer an order and pickup/delivery service, so they already have pizza boxes on standby and are happy to use them to put those last two slices that you can't manage (but that will make a delicious breakfast tomorrow!).

    Do pizza places do this all over? I expect so...
  49. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Yes, in Russia all pizzerias I know do this.
    In fact, we very rarely go to a pizzeria to sit there and eat a pizza. More often, we we just drop there and order a pizza and then take it home to eat it there.
  50. libre_pensador Senior Member

    I live in the U.S. and it's perfectly acceptable for people to take food 'to go.' At most restaurants, near the end of the meal the waiter will almost always ask you if you want a to-go box (except at a buffet). Even at a nice restaurant, waiters usually ask if they can box up the food for you. It's seen as a waste to throw away perfectly good food. Another thing people do is share a meal, which is also quite common since portions seem to be so large. The term 'doggie bag' is not very common, although you would be understood. And no one would think that you were asking for a bag to actually take home to your dog. Cheers!

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