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Waiters: It's Not My Job To Box the Leftovers! Print E-mail
(20 votes, average 3.10 out of 5)
Food - Restaurants
Written by Karl Wolf   
Tuesday, 03 November 2009 08:40

I'm not sure if this really qualifies as an article but after writing the one on tipping, I just had to comment on another issue that maybe you all could help me with. It used to be that when a waiter was serving you, they did just that, serve you. The other night, the missus and I were going out for one of those cheap meals, an Italian restaurant. I'd sum it up as good food, good price, but poor service. But there is one thing that stood out that reminded me of why I think tipping has gotten so out of control. We had a nice large pizza with a bunch of good meat toppings. I probably had a few too many slices, but I love pizza. When we were done, the waiter eventually stolls over and says, "Would you like a box for that?"

waiterI just don't get the box thing. I mean they are the waiter, they are supposed to handle the food and when I am done, you hand me a cardboard box. Suddenly I have to do your job. When did this whole box thing start anyways. 30 years ago it would have been unheard of to present a box to a customer and say, "here you go." Did some state issue an ordinance against servers handling your half eaten food? Or were too many people complaining that they weren't boxing it right? I just don't get it. Your the waiter, you handle the food. I am the customer, I eat the food, but I'm not supposed to do your job for you.

It's pretty simple, when I go out to eat, I expect that I am going to be served. Maybe I need to break it down for the restaurant owners out there. First, the waiter takes the order: drinks, appetizers, and the main course. Then they deliver the food. Later they come back to refresh the drinks and check in on us. Then ask for dessert, box or bag up the leftovers, and give us the check. Seems like a pretty fair deal to get my 15% tip. Apparently, however, some waiters have gotten together and decided that boxing leftovers is beneath them. Fine then, I say that's worth about 20% of the tip value so, lets say that we should all default to a 12% tip if they don't box up the leftovers. I think if we all got together and did this the waiters and waitresses out there would get the message pretty quickly. And I'll be a nice guy too, if you box my leftovers, I am going to tip you....18%. I know I always said I am a 15% tipper, but the wait staff that puts in the extra effort is going to get a little extra from me this year.

Maybe I am too rough on the waiters, but I find it very difficult for them to justify a "good" 20% tip if the only people doing the real work are the busboys, kitchen staff, and me packing up my leftovers. I asked a couple of friends that are good waiters, and they agreed that not servicing the customer is just laziness. Each of them boxes up the leftovers. Perhaps some of you waiters and waitresses could enlighten me on why I shouldn't start a national movement to reduce tips by 3 percentage points if I have to box up my leftovers. I think the good wait staff would like it because that 3% will go in their pocket for doing a good job. C'mon waiters, please box my leftovers.



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Golden  - I'd rather box it. |2011-07-15 09:43:06
I'd rather box my own food. It's already on the table. I can take what I want from my plate etc. I don't want my server touching my food or have it disappear to who knows where they take it to. I always tip 20%. I also never get garnish on my drinks from the bar. Bartenders touch the fruit and money and dirty dishes from the person that ate at the bar. No thank you. I will box my food myself and take my water no lemon please.
Tina C.  - Let me box it |2011-06-24 07:54:36
I would MUCH rather box up my own food. First, I don't like that my food disappears and then I imagine the waiter touching it with his bare hands (e.g. sandwiches, pizza). Secondly, I have more issues with waiters boxing up things in which they forget to get all the items.

One time, I had them box up a hamburger. When I got it home, they'd only given me the bottom bun.
Cheep |2010-12-15 07:37:24
Personally, I prefer to go to restaurants where there are no waitstaff. (And, I'm not referring to fast food joints.) In Chicago, there are many great places to eat where you place your order at a counter, go sit down and wait to have your number called. The, you get up off your butt and go get your food to bring back to your table. I'd do that any day over paying some rude, useless person to fail to live up to my expectations for their gratuity. About 99% of waitstaff aren't worth the tips they get. Sorry to all you "servants" out there. My bad.
Gwen |2010-05-19 05:45:20
As a former server, I had no problem boxing up people's leftovers, however as a customer I prefer boxing my own.

When taking care of my customers, I tried to never touch their food, but sometimes it happened. Also, just because I tried to be as safety conscious as possible doesn't mean there aren't servers out there who would think nothing of dropping some of your meal on the floor and putting it right back in the box. IMHO, boxing your own food is safer and gives you peace of mind that the person boxing your food was someone who did it with the utmost care - you!

Also, I agree with the poster who mentioned that 15% tips are a thing of the past. Most servers' wages are a joke. I always received paychecks for $0.0. My wages (a hefty $2.35 an hour) went straight to the government. Getting a paycheck for $0 always seemed like kind of a joke. The government assumes servers are tipped 15% on every meal, and taxes them appropriately. If you tip a server 10%, they're still taxed on 15%, and they take a significant loss.

20% shows your server that you value their time and that they did an acceptable job. I think it helps to see servers as independent contractors. They're not paid by the restaurant, and you're essentially renting out space at one of their tables.
frugal nomad  - Contributor |2010-05-19 08:07:28
I think your post is the ultimate response. We always have to remember that the waiter or waiteress also has bills to pay and can have off days. They're one of the few groups of workers that are not covered by minimum wages. In many countries, like New Zealand, waiters won't even accept tips and depend entirely on they're paycheck. I think it would be great if servers were paid decent wages so they wouldn't have to depend on the whim of the customer.
Tami |2010-05-14 16:47:12
I want to box my own food. Many times there are items on the plate that I don't want to take home. Also, since many times the boxes are on the small side, I am a little picky on the placement of each food item. For instance, I don't want my roll to get soggy from the gravy or sauce.
El Super Cheapo  - Low Income and Sniffles |2010-04-09 04:16:58
Just wanted to remind all, that most places do not pay their waitstaff standard minimum wage. Most make a fraction of that, and it is a fraction on the lesser side of half.
Waitstaff must also report all tips that they receive to big brother, and yes they can fudge that number, but big bro over there taxes them on the 15 anyway. If you pay with plastic, be it credit or debit, then it is recorded exactly how much you tipped them. So if they did an outstanding job, and you feel courteous, you want to drop in that extra percentage... Please do so in cash. If you want to deduct from them due to poor service, etc. then do it with the card, so that they don't get rolled on their taxes. They could just be having a bad day ;)

The kid at table 6 has the sniffles, and the man at table 9 has been coughing half the time he's been there. No one on the waitstaff wants to handle their tableware more than necessary. It's not just those at the tables that should be watching the employees for hygienic/health reasons, the employees have to watch out too.

In my own experience, the restaurants I visit once a year box my food for me. Which I think is dandy, since it was an $18+ plate of food. The handful of other places I go, I have to box it. That's fine too, because I just paid $8 and have so much food coming home with me, that it may be cheaper than shopping.

If you feel cheated at a place, don't go!
If you're just thinking how much your paying for food, and how much your going to tip, your not having a good time. Why eat out? Your paying for experience and atmosphere as well, enjoy it!
Live2Eat  - Servers should NOT touch your food! |2010-04-08 13:40:48
So, I was a server in both NYC and Cali for many years and in neither state was I allowed to touch the food. Now that doesn't mean that I never did, of course. Personally, I thought it added an extra choice. However, as far as rules are concerned, servers may not re-serve food.

Hope that helps clear it up for you.

p.s. A 15% tip does not cut it anymore. Throw in a couple more bucks to make it 20% for decent service. You have no idea what 15% or lower does to a server's self esteem. And keep in mind that in NY (and other states I'm sure), servers are paid less than $5/hr by their establishment, which ends up being completely taken out in taxes.

Doing the math for 20% is easier too =)
Dave  - My guess? |2010-02-06 00:20:55
It's probably the restaurants' owners preventing the possibility of a frivolous lawsuit ("OHMYGAWD THE WAITER SPAT IN MY LEFTOVERS WTFLOLBBQ"). It also prevents them from giving the wrong food to the wrong person, which in turn prevents potential allergic reactions from happening. Lastly, the server is able to use the time they would have spent boxing your food to help other people.

Just my two cents.
Nazy Meighan  - It is a personal preference |2009-11-12 18:32:18
I prefer if the waiter asks me if they could pack it for me. If it is something I don't want mixed up then I'd do it myself but for something like pizza then the assumption is that the waiter/server is supposed to do that as part of service. And if I am paying for food and didn't finish or build up enough appetite then I want to take it home! Sometimes with great service servers add more. For instance our favorite Mexican restaurant always add chips and dip for free while others pay for it if it gets packed up. It really is more sanitary to pack it ourselves.
cheaparse  - personal preference |2009-11-03 23:10:09
Call me a control freak, but I actually prefer to box my own leftovers, because I can stick the food in the containers the way I want it. When waiters box my leftovers, they seem to inevitably either:
1) Mix incompatible dishes to create horrible tasting smorgasbords
2) Omit items (e.g. don't throw away ANY dish, no matter how little is left...I want it all!)
3) Kill the environment by using 5 containers to box 2 containers worth of food.
MJJ |2009-11-04 02:57:47
I agree with cheaparse, and having worked in a number of restaurants myself I'd prefer to box the food myself for, um, hygenic reasons. The less contact my waiter gets with my food after he's had to deal with my cheap demanding arse the better...

However, Karl points out a trend toward do-it-yourself service. This isn't just in the food industry but fast food joints make you pay just as much to get your own drinks as they used to to fill them themselves. This saves them time and effort from filling and refilling, and allows the customer more of a sense of entitlement to those refils. I think the margin on soda is the biggest item at fast food joints...

I guess we really can't blame them for being cheap when we're trying to do the same thing...
Dan |2010-04-10 15:53:28
Refilling your drink yourself is faster and easier, anyway. The Wendy's around here are not self-serve and it's annoying. You have to go up to them, wait if they're helping a customer (and they usually are, if you go during peaks at least), then tell them what to refill, and they throw out your cup! That's destroying the environment and a waste of time. Also, if you like to mix your drinks (say, orange with sprite), they may not mix it at the ratio you like.

Whereas with self-serve, you just get up, fill it yourself how you want, and sit back down.
Omiewon  - Personal Preference Yes, But I'd like to be asked |2009-11-04 12:35:23
I completely understand what cheaparse is saying too, sometimes I would rather box it. But the assumption that I have to box it myself is indicative of a serious problem that we have in America....people not doing their jobs at 100%. It goes way beyond waiters and boxing food. There is often a minimalist attitude and the bar is getting lower. That's why when you get a great waiter, tip them well. Thankfully, I haven't given out too many bad tips because I am fairly picky on restaurants. When I was in college however, I once gave a 9 cent tip to make a point with the waiter. He was completely stoned and I had to ask for the Parmesan cheese 3 times before I finally got up and got it myself. I thought 9 cents would more of a point than leaving nothing. He might just think that I didn't tip with nothing.
Cheap N Legal  - Just Ask... |2009-11-04 17:48:40
I agree Omie. It seems that the only restaurants that would do this are "high end" now and who would bring home leftovers anyway, it would all be eaten that is the point!

For local faves, they should ask. It's still expected. At least from me in NY, lol!

What happens if you're just not hungry, happens to me a lot if I eat early. I definitely dont want to pack my food.

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