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Whether you can get leftovers packed?

Veenu Singh poses these very basic questions: When is it okay to ask a restaurant to pack leftover food? And can you do that in a five star hotel? Read on to find out.

india Updated: Nov 28, 2009 21:58 IST
Veenu Singh

FoodMarketing executive Sunetra Singh was very excited to be checking out the newly opened multi-cuisine restaurant in town a few weeks after it opened. She and her group of friends were impressed by the beautiful ambience and amazing food and only slightly daunted by the just-a-tad-expensive prices. Getting carried away, they ordered a good portion of the menu, and at the end, were slightly staggered to see just how much was still left on the table. Not wanting to let go of the yummy dishes, a friend suggested to Singh that she ask for a ‘doggy bag’. "But I couldn’t do that," says Singh. "I felt so embarrassed for one thing, and also, I didn’t know the restaurant’s policy about it. So I passed on the offer, but I do regret wasting all that food."

It’s called ‘parcel’ in Mumbai. Delhi residents tell the waiter: “Pack kar dijiye.” But you’re likely to hear these requests only at stand-alone, not very posh restaurants/hotels. At fancy restaurants, many of us aren’t sure what to do. Should we get leftover food packed? Or should we let it be? What if the waiter loftily informs us that they don’t believe in doggy bags?

There are always times when we aren’t able to finish all the food that we have ordered, and yet, more often than not, we feel awkward asking the staff to pack up uneaten food.

However, foodie and Delhi resident Vansh Aggarwal has no such qualms. “I am a regular at many restaurants and the waiters there recognise me,” explains Aggarwal. “So whenever a large portion of the food is left over, I just ask them to pack it and they have no problems doing that. I also feel that it is my right to take the food as I have paid for it.”

The doggy bag has been part of American dining culture for many years now, and is considered the norm in all parts of the United States. In India too, where fine dining has taken off over the last decade, restaurants are becoming more open to handing over doggy bags to customers. Says Sunil Tickoo, group general manager of QBA restaurants in Delhi, “Once the customer has ordered food, the restaurant does not have any problem about whether he wants to finish the food there itself or get it packed. All our staff are well informed about this and make sure that no customer feels uncomfortable about asking for leftover food to be packed.”

Laurent Guiraud, general manager, Manre, an upmarket restaurant in Delhi, agrees. “Manre has no issues offering doggy bags to its customers according to their demands,” he says, “Any dish from our various menus - be it the bar, main courses, desserts etc. – can be packed as a takeaway.” Sameer Chona of Chona restaurant in Delhi’s Khan Market is also comfortable with the concept. “However, as far as I know, only a small ratio of people avail this service,” says Chona.

Food consultant and travel writer Rupali Dean also feels that there is no harm in asking for food to be packed as it has been paid for. But at the same time, she advises some kind of discretion. “If you have ordered Indian, and only some rotis are left over, then obviously it would be inappropriate to ask for them to be packed,” explains Dean. “But if you are in a Chinese restaurant and are left with a good quantity of noodles or rice, then you can take that home with you.”
Dean also feels that one must consider if the food will stay the course. “If the food will turn bad by the next day, there’s little point in asking for a doggy bag in the first place,” she explains.
There’s another consideration to take into account when you ask for a doggy bag. Rajesh Khanna, operations head F&B at The Metropolitan Hotel in New Delhi, explains, “Only the leftover food in the service bowl (and not that left over on the plate) can be packed at a guest’s request.”

However, not all restaurants are comfortable with packing leftover food for patrons. And a few five-star hotels like the Taj group and even the Radisson don’t seem to encourage the practice for certain reasons. Sudipto Bhattacharya, F&B manager at the Radisson, explains, “Generally, we do not encourage this practice as there is a credible risk of food safety being compromised in transit, or due to temperature abuse, thus rendering it unfit for consumption. We strongly advocate to our esteemed guests that all food prepared by the hotel is best consumed within the premises. Moreover, we rarely receive such a request.”

As a rule, if you over-order, don’t be shy about asking for the doggy bag. But at a five star or similarly haughty place, order wisely – it’s your best bet.