You’re Welcome, But The Clown’s Gotta Go.

March 4, 2009 at 8:04 am

 Just when you think you have seen it all . . .

There appears to be a new trend in American dining and this is not a positive one – people bringing their own food. It started with birthday cakes. You can almost rationalize that as acceptable – it is customary to have a personalized cake for birthdays. Then people started bringing the cakes hours ahead of time and expecting the restaurant to care for it and slice it and serve it and dispose of the container and keep it chilled and so on. Keep in mind the business losses money on this deal, after all they sell desserts. Most restaurants are fine with providing this service, too many, in fact.

Now the big thing is parents stopping by a drive-thru to get the kids their favorite box meal so they can eat it inside while the adults enjoy a real dinner. As a chef I get furious whenever I see someone do this. If it were left to me I would ask the customers to leave.  Their conduct is as vulgar as any a person is capable of.  It is no different than flatuating or using profanity.  But alas my general manager is more tolerant (and possibly more wise).  It does not change the fact that it is rude, no not just rude, insulting.

Afterall, you don’t take your own physician to the closest doctor’s office to have him perform a procedure on you, then you both leave without cleaning up or paying for the examination room do you?  You don’t go to the Quickie Lube and refuse to pay them for labor because you brought your own oil and filter.  So why take outside food to a restaurant and expect them to be happy about it?  No matter how delusional someone may be, one cannot rationalize a situation where this practice is ever acceptable. 

The one exception to the no outside food rule is baby food.  Clearly this should be allowed.  But if you do not clean up and take the empty jar with you then at least leave the server an extra buck or two for doing something beyond what is required of them.  However, it is not acceptable for you to bring in a bottle and expect the restaurant to heat it or prepare it for you in any way.  That’s just gross.

Some restaurants employ a novel approach to outside kid’s food. They allow parents to bring  it in . . .  for a fee. I love that idea!  It is fair for everyone.  You allege that your kid will only eat that clown’s nuggets? No problem, for $5 you can bring that kiddie meal in and we will even clean up after your child. That is genuine customer service.

One of the problems with ill-mannered parents bringing in those kid’s meals is that they do not pack up all of the trash and leftovers and take it with them when they leave.  Barbaric isn’t it? They actually leave it for the server to clean up, the same server that just had money stolen from them by that parent.

Bringing in your own food is stealing. It is stealing from the restaurant because their sole reason for being in business is to sell food. It is stealing from the server because their job is to provide you a service, a service which you in turn pay them for by leaving a tip that is a percentage of the total bill. If you purchase the kid’s food somewhere else it lowers the total bill, therefore lowering the server’s pay and then you give them more work to do.  So again give them a little extra if you expect them to clean up after your crime and dispose of your evidence?

Steal from me, insult me but do not make me an accessory to your crime.

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Stuart Reb Donald

Stuart is a celebrity chef and award winning food writer. Donald performs live cooking demonstrations and penned the cookbook Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor."

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