My recent trip to America’s mid-west was everything I thought it would be: barbecues, 4th of July parties, beer, outdoor pools, malls, good food, great people and even better vibes. It was my first time stateside and I had a blast, not even an infected spider bite or the scary customs officer at Dublin’s preclearance could put a downer on my trip.
On my last evening, we had dinner at a lovely famous steakhouse called Lindy’s where they serve your steak to your liking (medium-rare of course) while the accompaniments are served ‘family style’…and unlimited. I struggled to keep my jaw closed as the food arrived - perfectly cooked steak, steaming hot garlic button mushrooms, the cheesiest, bacon-iest potatoes you ever saw and, as if that wasn’t enough, freshly prepared garlic bread. As I tucked into my final dinner of the holiday it became clear that, of course, our eyes were bigger than our bellies.
Filled with zero waste guilt and, honestly, desire to eat this meal again, I prepared to ask for a box when the waitress came to collect the plates. To my sheer delight, again through both guilt and moreish desire, she said ever so cheerily, “shall I grab you guys some boxes for this?” to which the table almost rejoiced in harmony, “you betcha!”. No embarrassment, no awkward questions, just appreciation of good food and expectation that you’ll want to take home what you’ve paid for.
I had took my leftovers home throughout the entirety of the holiday and shamelessly got into work-like conversations with waiting staff and friends of friends about the difference between the UK and the USA. However, the final night at the steakhouse made me realise that it’s just so second nature to Americans to leave a restaurant proudly clutching their midnight snack or lunch for the next day - it’s great!
There are of course important factors other than any potential embarrassment to consider, most obviously the difference in portion sizes. However, I really appreciated the open acceptance of doggy bags from both the staff and customers. I also really enjoyed the fact that the waiting staff brought the boxes to our table in most places and allowed us to fill it up ourselves. Perhaps that’s a ‘Stephanie-specific’ appreciation which wouldn’t work for everyone. I was struck by the sight of boxes dotted about the restaurant and present for all to observe, understand and apply to their restaurant experience. Plus, who can argue with keeping the $33 leftover steak for lunch the next day?
I was aware before jetting off that doggy bags were ’a thing’ in America, however it was interesting to observe the behaviour in-situ while enjoying some fine, tasty American nummy-ness (I’ll get over the food soon I promise). Remember… love your leftovers and ask for a doggy bag!
The Zero Waste Scotland Good to Go programme was developed to change the culture around leftovers and save food from the bin by giving customers an easy way to take uneaten food home. Our research revealed that customers are keen to be offered ‘doggy bags’, however two fifths are too shy to ask. Restaurants participating in our Good to Go pilot, where customers were proactively offered doggy bags, reported average food waste reductions of 42% and that customers overwhelmingly welcomed the service. Find out more about the programme: www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/food-waste/good-to-go