Millions of Americans dine out in restaurants each year, and a significant number of them-especially in tough economic times-request to have their “leftovers” packaged and ready to take home.
It is often the server’s responsibility to take the food from the table, move it to the kitchen, package it, and return it to the customer. Frequently, however, the server is too busy even to consider labeling the contents and placing a date on the package-this is a mistake, both from a food safety standpoint and from a restaurant marketing standpoint.
Food safety. Here’s what often happens: The customer takes the package home, puts it in the refrigerator and perhaps several days later, discovers their leftover restaurant meal, untouched since the day it was brought home. Food that is improperly stored and reconstituted/reheated could easily cause health problems. It would be of great help to the customer if the server were simply to label the contents, and include a date on the package.
In many countries labeling on restaurant Take Home packages is a legal requirement. Certain cities in the United States have tried, without success, to enact laws to require restaurants to apply such a safety label. However, no community in the U.S. has enforced such legislation and it does not require, in my opinion, government intervention when only a simple labeling of the contents and date by the server would be in the best interest of the restaurant and the restaurant’s customer.
Restaurant marketing. Since the food was so good that the customer wanted to take the remaining portion home, the restaurant has the opportunity to remind customers of their positive dining experience and once again help them enjoy the food they ordered.
Restaurant managers should make it a standard practice to have servers identify and date customers’ packages as well as “dress up” the package to extend the customer’s positive dining experience. While it is the customer’s job to store and reheat their take home food properly, just a few seconds on the server’s part is all it takes for food safety to be ensured and for each customer relationship to be greatly improved.