Doggie bag: Taking home left-overs from restaurants

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

  1. KateNicole Senior Member

    Miami, Florida
    English (USA)
    I think this thread is so interesting! I've only been to Spain once about six years ago, and I'm just now realizing that there were so many cultural nuances I was unaware of. My first day in Barcelona, I was feeling ill and went out to lunch. I ordered a plate of spaghetti, ate about two bites, and felt nauseous, so I politely asked for the check. When the waitress cleared my plate, I politely asked her if she could wrap it for me because I wasn't feeling well. She smiled and said yes, and then threw it away in front of me! (There was a garbage can in eyesight.) I figured she hadn't heard me or maybe I said it wrong (I always said "¿me lo puede poner para llevar?" in Mexico and wondered if that didn't make sense in Spain) . . . now after reading your post, I wonder if she did hear me correctly, but didn't believe what I was asking. Perhaps the request was incomprehensible (?????) I really never had any idea that asking to take home uneaten food that you paid for (and tipped very well, mind you!) was frowned upon. I didn't say anything to her. I just paid and left, but if that had happened to me in America, I would have demanded a refund or a new meal.

    I have a very small appetite (not to mention that portion size is out of control in a lot of American restaurants), and I've never felt embarrassed or awkward about asking for a container, but I don't call it a "doggie bag" either (and I also don't feed the food to my dog!) I don't think anyone should have to feel ashamed about taking home the food they paid for. I've also done this in fancy restaurants (by fancy I mean coat and tie required and about $100 per person . . . that's as fancy as I have ever experienced) and the waiter has always offered to wrap what was left on the plate, and I didn't feel tacky about taking it home.
    Maybe I'm classless in that sense, but I actually think it's quite snobbish to scoff at someone for taking a home a very large, uneaten portion of a $65.00 steak.
    I also think it's a little pretentious to not take home food that you would otherwise eat just because you are dining at a fancy restaurant . . . I think (at least within my culture) that people who prefer to discard food that they would otherwise eat in an effort to look extravagant or wealthy have self-esteem issues and are too image-conscious.
  2. LaReinita

    LaReinita Senior Member

    East Coast, USA
    USA (Northeast Coast)-Inglés
    KateNicole, I completely agree with everything you said, in fact your post is similar to my posts #25 and #29 . . . so I can assure, you are not classless.
  3. KaRiNe_Fr

    KaRiNe_Fr Senior Member

    France, Provence
    Français, French - France
    I think portion is the key here. We rarely have some food left when we eat in restaurants in France. I can eat all and I can even be a little bit hungry after the main dish (it's why desserts are for, btw :p). But I swear I'm not an ogre. :)
  4. Nicomon

    Nicomon Senior Member

    Français, Québec ♀
    Indeed, portion is the key. I also agree 100 % with KateNicole. "Doggie bag" or "take away box" is certainly not frowned upon in Quebec, and I would assume in other Canadian provinces. And yes, they do offer. As for me, I prefer to choose restaurants that serve normal size, not Texas size portions, or - as is becoming a little more common - offer half or lighter portions (e.g. 5 oz steak as opposed to half pound or even bigger:eek:). Sometimes, I'll share, if the person I'm with feels like eating the same thing. For instance to satisfy my sweet tooth:), as I certainly can't eat all by myself those humungus pieces of cake, I ask for « gâteau mousse au chocolat, deux fourchettes ».
  5. flame

    flame Senior Member

    In Austria it used to be quite common that the waiter/waitress would offer to do a doggie bag for you proactively, particularly in more rural areas and not-so-ritzy places. The waiter would offer a length of aluminium foil to pack the meat, vegetables usually are not taken.

    It is still (but less & less) accepted and practiced if you (the guest) ask the waiter if you "can take that piece home" - they may be proud you liked the food and the portion was so big you couldn't eat it at once.

    Asking for a doggie bag at buffet style functions is considered inappropriate (maybe with the exception if you are the last one leaving - never tried).

    The better the restaurant, the less I'd ask for a doggie bag.
  6. alitaker Member

    Wait wait! :)

    All right, i agree with the portion explanation, but i have a few doubts.

    In Italy it seems to me to be quite rude to ask for a box, even when you left half of the meal on the plate, but that's not my point.

    Here you usually have at least 3 dishes at a restaurant: first and second course and fruit or dessert.
    Some have also appetizers (on your plate, not shared) and you could also have both fruit and dessert on a separate plate.
    Not to mention if you want vegetables, fries or some extra cheese. They're all on different plates.

    You may order single dish meals only in very "fast" restaurants (usually cafeteria or pubs with hot dishes), but asking for a box for half a sandwich and salad would seem even worse :p

    Anyways I'd feel quite unconfortable if I wanted to take away half of the first course and then half of the second course... and so on. I would have to have a box for each course or have it there open and use it as a trash! :eek: At least that's what it seems to me.

    What happens to you other guys? Do you usually have many-courses meals? How do you pack/have things packed?

    We also like to share dishes and if you pay for the extra plate, it's not very strange, but you usually do it in lower order restaurants and not because the portion is too big, but just because you want to taste more dishes, or because your girlfriend doesn't feel like having a full dish ;-)

    And going back to the original topic, yes we have an equivalent for "doggie bag", and it's the adjective "d'asporto" (da asporto) which means take away, but we usually have "d'asporto places" like "pizzeria d'asporto" (pizza to go), not restaurants.
    Also, although it's common to have places which are both pizzeria and pizzeria d'asporto, some nicer pizzerias do not have the "to go" option at all.
    I can think of only one other type of place where you take away: it's "rosticceria". Not a restaurant at all.
    Maybe it's because we're good at cooking :D always wanna cook yourself what you buy!
  7. tvdxer Senior Member

    Minnesota, U.S.A.
    Minnesota, U.S.A. - English
    Moderator note: this post was the first one of a new thread. Now it's merged with a previously existing thread. Sorry for the inconsistencies you may find due to the merging.

    What do people in your country do with the food they can't finish at a restaurant?

    In the United States, most people take home what they can't finish from their plate at a restaurant so they can reheat it the next day (or later that night, or two days get the idea) in the microwave. This isn't an unusual occurrence considering the sometimes mammoth American restaurant portions. This is seen as a completely normal practice, and if you ask for the bill and the waiter / waitress sees that you still have food on your plate, he or she will probably ask you if you want a "doggy bag", which is the American name for the styrofoam packages restaurants give your for this purpose.

    This might seem like a strange thread topic, but I've heard that such a practice is unusual in Europe, even seen as miserly.
  8. Mate

    Mate Senior Member

    Castellano - Argentina
    Here in Argentina, only US citizens take left-overs home. Natives usually don't.

    We do not judge such practice as miserly, even in those rare occasions when a native takes advantage of left-overs by bringing them home.

    A much more frequent costume is to bring home the remaining wine, especially if it is of high quality.
    Inside a bag, of course.
  9. lablady

    lablady Senior Member

    Central California
    English - USA
    The practice is so common in the U.S. that restaurants appear to expect that any remaining food will be taken home.
  10. federicoft Senior Member

    No, we generally don't ask for a doggie bag in this country (Italy), I don't think the very concept would be understood - even in casual restaurants. You are just expected to order as much food as you can eat at the moment, and waiters will warn you if they think you are ordering more food than you can handle.

    In fact I remember being in the U.S. for the first time, and I was very surprised seeing people in restaurants asking for doggie bags.
  11. CrazyArcher

    CrazyArcher Senior Member

    It's pretty common to ask to pack the leftovers, at least at casual restaurants. The portions tend to be generous, and restaurants often have a stock of plastic boxes for those cases. It's common to order a take-away meal as well.
  12. alex-38 Senior Member

    My parents saw that for the first time in a Parisian restaurant and were traumatised by seeing that... This is just a question of culture, the Americans were thinking "let's congratulate the chef by asking a doggy bag because that was good." which I think is kinda nice. But in Latin culture (Italian, French and probably other countries) you don't do that.
    At the end of the meal, you put your fork and knife on the right side of the plate inside the plate (parallel) => that says I liked it to the waiter. If you put your fork and knife in a crossed way, that says I didn't like it.
    The leftovers are probably for the chef's dog... ;-)

    You just have to accept the difference of culture, that is all. Why the indians eat with their hands ? Why the japanese eats on the floor in a crouched way... and so on...
    Accept the other country way of behaving at the table, in life...
    We all could make mistakes with japanese, chinese, indians, arabs culture because we don't know all the codes... This is the case with here the doggy bag thing...which is a slight difference inside western eating cultural habbit.. Why do we have to think it is weird ?
    Let's just be all tolerant and accept each other differences.
  13. Topsie

    Topsie Senior Member

    Avignon, France
    In a (rather expensive) Indian restaurant in London, where we ordered a lot of food, we were automatically given what we didn't eat to take home, nicely packaged in aluminium containers.
    In France that would be unheard of! A pity really, as people would perhaps order 3 or 4 different items from the menu "to taste" at the restaurant if they knew that they could take the leftovers home for another meal!
    Since the laws on drinking and driving have become a lot more stringent, people do ask to take home their unfinished bottles of wine, though!

    I'm not sure that hygiene laws forbid "doggie bags", because then all "take-aways" would be faced with the problem of being accused of food-poisoning - after all, it's the customer's responsibility to consume the food within a reasonable time from date of purchasing!
  14. Gwan Senior Member

    Indre et Loire, France
    New Zealand, English
    I think here it's relatively uncommon to ask to take the leftovers home - certainly waiters don't automatically offer it, and I don't recall doing it or people I've been with doing it. If there's food leftover, it just gets wasted. I realise this doesn't make sense!
    What intrigued me is that several people have said that you get charged for an extra plate if you share with someone. I don't think that happens here at all, and if it did I would probably be a bit taken aback! It's maybe not so common to share main courses, but very common to share entrees and/or desserts, or to order a couple of dishes and swap half and half or whatever between the table.
  15. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    In Austria it once was extremely common to take leftovers home - not only for the dog, mind!

    You could have said to the waiters that you'd like to take the leftovers home - there was no need for an excuse that you'd like taking it home for the dog.
    It was a most normal thing - no stigma attached to it whatsoever.

    Also, if you wanted to take home the bones for your dog (so, inedible leftovers for people, theoretically) you also said so - and you got them. (I knew a man, long dead now, who was quite poor and used to go to restaurants - where he wouldn't eat - to ask for leftover bones 'for his dog'; however it was common knowledge that he took the bones for himself. So I guess you 'needed' an excuse like 'it's for my dog' when asking for bones.)

    However, this has changed: nowadays this is not so common anymore, people are much richer than they were some decades ago and it seems to be considered lack of finesse if someone asks for leftovers (or at least some people seem to have changed attitudes here). It is still done, though.
  16. ajo fresco

    ajo fresco Senior Member

    I learned the hard way how different cultures deal with this when I visited Germany for the first time in 2003.

    As many other Americans have already mentioned, it's normal in most situations to take home our leftovers.

    I stayed with a German family who took me to a small, casual Italian restaurant in Mannheim. My plate of spaghetti was more than I could eat, so at the end of the meal I asked politely for a to-go box.

    My German hosts were aghast, and immediately stopped me: "We don't do that here!" They told me it was an embarrassment and only poor/lower-class people took their leftovers home. Then they apologized to the waiter and explained to him that I was from the U.S.!

    Believe me, on my subsequent trips to Germany, I never asked for a to-go box again!

    Were my hosts overreacting? Or is it really considered that bad in Germany?
  17. xiphias Member

    Temuco, Chile
    HI ¡¡
    In Chile, is usual that you ask for the rest of your food in two kind of restaurants: chinese and chilean tipical barbecue (parrillas o parrilladas a la chilena) where the food is very abundant. Normally they give you that food canned in disposable aluminum cans nicely sealed.
    However, the "doggie bag" doesn't exist.
    It's not a common practice in other kind of restaurants.
  18. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    I don't know.
    I don't think that Austrians would be horrified (which your hosts obviously were), but then Austria is not Germany, even though we are geographically close and (theoretically) speak the 'same' language habits are not the same in all respects at all.

    However I do know from my own experience that taking leftovers home was much more usual some decades ago and is not so usual any more nowadays. In a 'stylish' restaurant you certainly would not ask for a leftover box anymore in Austria; but in a small inn in the countryside you might, and I don't think that people would be shocked. But that's just my Austrian experience.

    So I really can't be sure if Germany is so much different from us, concerning this.
  19. TrentinaNE

    TrentinaNE Senior Member

    English (American)
    I haven't heard the euphemism "doggie bag" used in a restaurant in ages. If there is a sizeable amount of food left on one's plate, the waitstaff typically will just ask if you'd like to take it with you.
  20. blue_jewel

    blue_jewel Senior Member

    In our place we're usually asked "dine-in or take-out" if you have to eat in a food chain. But we don't usually do it in restaurants especially in buffet or even in the cafeterias. Though it isn't bad or shameful if you have to bring your left overs with you, be it for the dogs or for you. Waiters/ress just won't mind,you've paid for it anyway. :)
  21. columbe1 New Member

    New Zealand/English
    I'd have to disagree with you moirag. Here in New Zealand the takeaway containers are usually plastic and they're great, I reuse them to store things in the fridge/freezer, to give meals to friends/family and sometimes as lunchboxes for the kids... so the packaging doesn't go to waste in our house!
  22. TrentinaNE

    TrentinaNE Senior Member

    English (American)
    But you're getting another meal out of it, and thereby foregoing the preparation costs/packaging associated with buying a second meal.

  23. Soy

    Soy Senior Member

    Buenos Aires

    Yet Ive seen it done (and done it myself, if I may say so) several times. And I´m 100% Argentine. Never in a fancy restaurant, though. But there are some quite nice ones that have a 'delivery service' and offer to wrap up what you haven't eaten.
  24. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    This was the case once in Austria - I remember vividly family reunions in the late 1970ies and 80ies when the waiters asked you if you'd like to take leftovers home.
    This however was not in fancy restaurants but in countryside inns; where I haven't heard for at least 20 years any waiter ask a guest if he'd like to take leftovers home (this custom seems to have come out of use) - but it may happen (still, I think) that guests will ask (and that no one might take offence).
  25. 2001nita0

    2001nita0 Senior Member

    Guildford England
    English England
    Here in England 'doggy bags' have been around for quite a few years, but again, probably not at the more formal restaurants.It is especially acceptable if a child, for example, has not been able to finish a large portion. One can ask for a doggy bag, it might be offered, or one could just ask if it would be possible to put the left overs in a container to take away. It does seem preferable to wasting perfectly good food. Interestingly, when I was last in México and my daughters were unnable to finish their enormous pizzas in Puerto Angel, Oaxaca, the waiters offered us a box to take the remains back to the hotel, an offer we gratefully accepted!
  26. coppergirl

    coppergirl Senior Member

    London, England

    I grew up in the Northeast of America, where it was very common to hear people asking for doggie bags (or boxes). I've lived in England for over 10 years now and I have to say, in that whole time, I have never heard anyone ask for the left-overs from the dinner to be put in a doggie bag or boxed up.

    Having said that, at Pizza Hut here, the waitresses and waiters automatically ask if we would like anything boxed up to take home, so occasionally, if we have only eaten about half the pizza or something, then I will get a box taken home for my kids to finish up later. But this is the only time I have ever really noticed it being done in England, and I have never asked for it really either.

    Hmmmmm . . until I read this thread, I never really thought about it at all before, but I suppose it is another one of those cultural things. Food for thought (unforgiveable pun sadly intended! :D)
  27. 2001nita0

    2001nita0 Senior Member

    Guildford England
    English England
    Yes, I do agree, one does not see it done that often here, and I personally have hardly ever asked for one, but I think it would be quite acceptable in many of the less formal restaurants and eateries (if they had a suitable container!):)
  28. chics

    chics Senior Member

    Catalan - Spanish
    Glups :eek:!
    In Spain it's different! For us, putting parallel our fork and knife inside the plat means that we're finished and that we won't eat anymore of the plat, so the waiter can leave it. If we haven't finished, we must say a little sentence like "Sorry, it was excellent, but I am not able to eat anything more".
    Crossing our fork and knife means that we are still eating and that the waiter can't leave it.

    Quantities in Spain try to be normal, so not finishing a plat requires to smile, say sorry and an excuse. If not saying sorry, it's upsetting, it means you didn't like it.

    Of course, not finishing a plate and, more, saying you will give to a dog is a terribly upsetting thing, unpolite, rude and very violent. You're saying everyone who can hear it that the food is so bad that it's only for dogs (and doesn't mean that you love your dog and care of it) and you won't eat it. I don't know if you will be welcomed next time...

    In Spain, we have two dishes but we can only ask for one of them. We can ask the waiter if the quantities are big or small and, if quantities are really big and we ask for too many plates, the waiter politely will suggest us to begin with some things and, after, if we like,we can ask for more dishes. We can not have a dessert, or have it with another person (and people will think that two people with one dessert are family, a couple or really very very good friends ;)). If you ask for too many food, it's your fault: you only can make an effort eat it or to say sorry and left it.

    In some (not all) familiar restaurants or bars, if you go with a child and he doesn't eat anything; if you say politely sorry, you green and you tell your live to the waiter, including that your loved child never eats anything at restaurants but two minutes after he always changes his idea, but you're far from home and... they wrap it to you can leave home, if they can.
  29. alisonp Senior Member

    English - UK
    I don't think there is actually any implication that you're going to feed the leftovers to your *dog*, which *would* be an insult. It's just what these bags/containers are known as.
  30. chics

    chics Senior Member

    Catalan - Spanish
    Yes, but somebody said that sometimes it is for the dog... or both! :eek:
  31. TrentinaNE

    TrentinaNE Senior Member

    English (American)
    As I noted above, "doggie bag" is becoming an archaic expression. I haven't heard it in years. The expectation nowadays (in the U.S.) is that leftovers are taken home to be eaten by humans. :)

  32. Messquito

    Messquito Senior Member

    台灣台北 Taipei, Taiwan
    Chinese - Taiwan 中文 Taiwanese Hokkien 臺語
    In Taiwan, it's a very common practice; in fact, it's so common that some diners even leave a roll of plastic bag where you can get and it you can just help yourself to it, no need to even ask a waiter.
    It is even practised in wedding banquets. Yes, at the end of a wedding, people just start asking for bags and put those fancy leftovers in them.

    While it's so common in Taiwan, I do understand why it's not appropriate for some restaurants or even some other cultures. Sometimes, the cooks just never want a customer to take their meal home and figure out the recipe; even if they don't care about it, there is still some health concerns. I've heard restaurants getting a lawsuit because one of their customers left the take-home box at home for a month and had food poisoning after eating it. That's actually the customer's fault, it was they who let the food go bad. But you can't expect every customer to be reasonable, so I understand why some think it's risky.
  33. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    I've shared food with friends in restaurants, and no one charges extra. It's also very common to share a dessert, or to try a few bites of the other person's dish. Waiters expect you to want a to go box if you haven't finished your meal, and usually ask if you want one. A tidy arrangement. And you get a snack for later!
  34. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    There's nothing dangerous about reheating meat that I know of; I eat leftovers for days -- either stuff I've cooked myself, or from restaurants.
  35. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    Good point, Uriel.

    I guess that would make all takeaway places, like pizza parlours, loath to let you take your ham- and sausage-laden takeaway home with you. Perhaps they could deliver the pizza and have the pizza dude stand over you while you eat it. Any leftover scraps of sausage would have to be confiscated too, lest you sneakily reheated it the next day.
  36. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
    Leftovers are definitely risky if their temperature is not controlled, and should only be reheated once to avoid the risk of foodborne illness.

    According to section 3-501.17 of the FDA Food Code, ready-to-eat food should be kept for no more than seven days at 41°F (5°C). If a dish is prepared from a leftover potentially hazardous ingredient, then the dish containing the leftover ingredient can be held for the remaining time of the leftover ingredient. For example, if cooked chicken has been stored at 41°F (5°C) for two days and is then used to prepare chicken salad, any leftover chicken salad is good for five more days. Check with your local health department since their requirements may be different.
    FAQS - ServSafe®
  37. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    I've survived all this time. Just put it in the fridge, you'll live. No matter how many times you reheat it. As for leftover pizza, no need to reheat -- nothing better than cold pizza for breakfast the morning after!
  38. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish

    Big is probably the thing. Portions in American restaurants are often ridiculously big. I also don't know any other country where you would even in your wildest advertising dreams or night mares even think of using size as an argument in an advert for a restaurant. But, supersize, three-inch stack of pancakes at Denny's, you name it.

    In Europe portions are smaller and people are encouraged to order several different things - a complete 3-course menu ... that is probably one good reason that doggie bags never were an issue here. What you leave on the plate is really what you do not want to eat - not even at home. And honestly - WHO reall brings the leftovers home for his dog - or for his rabbit or hamster in the case of vegetarian restaurants?

    Anyone here who ever did that?
  39. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    There is nothing unusual about taking something with you home from at restaurant that mainly serves take-aways. But that was never really the point with the doggie bag.
  40. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    I really do take leftovers home for my dogs and cats and assorted poultry. It's the done thing here (OK, I admit I don't frequent the swankier sort of restaurant). I don't like to see food wasted, and my dogs are very happy to be presented with a doggy bag full of half-eaten goodies.

    I notice that people here tend to over-order when they eat out, and I see lots of food left on the serving dishes. It may be due to the way Greek taverna meals are usually organised, with lots of mezzedes and large platters of grilled meat that everyone at the table shares.
  41. alisonp Senior Member

    English - UK
    Well, I occasionally eat out with a friend who can never manage a whole pizza, so always leaves quite a bit on her plate. She's often asked if she wants to take the rest home, but since we're usually going to the theatre or something afterwards it's not terribly convenient.
  42. Lly4n4 Senior Member

    Paris (ex-Grand Ouest)
    Français (France)
    I never asked to take the leftovers away (in my opinion, it was kind of impolite in a French restaurant) - until last Friday :)
    I asked the waiter because of three reasons:
    - my boyfriend only ate the starter and was already full (so he didn't even take a nip of his main dish, and there was an incoming dessert and coffee);
    - it was an Indian restaurant who offered a take-away service (so I knew they have the proper packagings);
    - since January (2016), French governement strongly recommands to restaurants to offer the "doggie-bag" option in order to reduce food waste: Tri sélectif et « doggy bag » : les mesures anti-déchets dans les restaurants

    But I was a little embarrassed -_-"
    Most of the time, French portions are quite right, so if there are some leftovers, either food was bad and there is no point to take it home, or it's too little to bother with it.

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