My note to restaurant owners about doggy bags

Dearest Restaurateur,

A while back I did a post imploring readers to ask for doggy bags at restaurants. (If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, you’ll know how I feel about food waste. And if not, you can catch up here.)

A lady I met in Vienna a few years back, with her al-foil doggy bag.
A lady I met in Vienna a few years back, with her al-foil doggy bag.

It would seem most people out there really want to take home their leftovers. But what emerged was that wait staff are telling them that they can’t/won’t cooperate because doggy bags are illegal.

If I can kindly point out: It’s legal to ask for, and take home, doggy bags in Australia. And in most of the world, in fact. (Read my previous post on the topic if you want to nerd up on this.)

And subtly remind us all: Food wastage contributes more CO2 emissions than cars and factories.

And implore you: to encourage your staff to do doggy bags.

Many readers shared ways their favourite restaurants are making it easier – for both restaurants and patrons  – to make doggy bags more acceptable. Perhaps you’d like to give some of them a crack?

1. Offer leftovers to save patrons the (perceived) embarrassment of asking. Don’t like the term”‘doggy bag”? Try “Would you like that to go?” or “Can I box up your leftovers?” Some of the best restaurants in Sydney, for instance, do this. I’ve been at Rockpool where the waiter made the process very much au fait. The crew at Fratelli Paradiso in Potts Point offer it almost the moment you think it.

2. Add a note to your menus stating that you are a leftovers-friendly establishment.

3. Place a sticker on the leftovers with safety info, stating date packaged, refrigerate straight away, eat within 24 hours.

Image via
Image via

4. Embrace the Foodie Bag concept. Have an explanation card on the table, along with a bunch of spoon clips (or similar). Have your diners put the clip on their plate if they would like their leftovers to go, then package it up in a sweet little box.

5. If you don’t have the time to spend packaging up leftovers, provide patrons with a container so they can do it themselves, or have a “takeaway station” (like a water station for self-serve water) with recycled paper trays for DIY packaging.

6. If patrons bring their own containers, make sure your waitstaff know it’s ok to help them package up their leftover meals.

7. If you have leftover additional food at the end of each day, donate it to Foodbank, OzHarvest or a similar organisation in your city.

8. Tell people you’re “doggy bag friendly”. Patrons love to name and promote restaurants that do good work when it comes to food wastage. They’ll do your marketing for you if they’ve got a good story to share.

I love this couple's proactive doggy bag option at their wedding reception!
I love this couple’s proactive doggy bag option at their wedding reception!

Want to go the extra mile?

Here are some clever things happening around the globe you could possibly tap into:

9. In Austin Texas, residents have a third “recycling” bin which is filled with food scraps that will be taken away and turned into compost, part of the city’s goal to eliminate 90 percent of the waste it sends to landfills by 2040. Residents also are encouraged to take a free home composting class in their neighbourhoods or online, which earns them a $75 rebate on the purchase of a home composting system, and a similar program is in the works for small businesses. Read more here.

10. The Sustainable Restaurant Association in the UK has launched a “Too Good to Waste” campaign. In an effort to make the doggy bag more socially acceptable, the campaign aims to bring more consciousness to the topic of food waste. They estimate that roughly 600,000 tonnes of food waste comes directly from restaurants every year.

11. A non-profit group that works with homeless people in Milan, Italy,  Cena dell’Amicizia, began a project called “Il buono che avanza,” (“The good things left over”). Restaurants in the Milan area can voluntarily take part. They’re provided with doggy bags and a sticker by the non-profit. “The idea is to fight the idea of a throw-away, consumerist society where waste is normal and recycling (even of food) is looked down upon”.

You can also read more posts about leftovers here.

Thanks for the time. I hope you don’t mind my telling you how to suck eggs, or stir a risotto or whatever.



PS Feel free to share what your restaurant is doing in the comments…


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