Leftovers An American Passion Best Left In America

doggy bagEating in an American Restaurant has been likened to eating your way through a weeks food in a few hours. The size of the portions of food are legendary, each restaurant tries to out do the competition by offering a never ending supply of salad and bread on top of a portion size that would feed several people. Because its almost impossible to finish a meal, restaurants openly offer to pack up the leftovers in a doggy bag for the customer to take home. This is so normal the waiting staff will be very surprised when the offer is refused.

Now the supermarket chain Waitrose has urged customers to insist on taking home unfinished restaurant food and has even got chef and food writer Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall to endorse the idea. I agree with the underlying argument that we should not be wasting food, but the answer is not doggy bags, its having more realistic portion sizes and, as a consequence, lower restaurant bills.

The problem is that the cost of food is generally less than 25% of the cost of the meal, so reducing the portion size has little impact on the total cost of the meal. Its also become a bit of a marketing ploy and used as a sign of good value. But its only good value if you wanted it in the first place. I’m sure most of what is taken home either ends up in the bin or the family pet, hardly a bargain. If Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall wants to endorse something along with his healthy diet and real food campaigns he should add moderation in portion sizes.


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