Do you offer Doggy Bags?

Australians love to eat out. As a nation of self-proclaimed foodies, though, many people are still embarrassed about asking to take leftover food home. This is probably due to the differing policies at venues all over the country. Some allow it, others frown upon it. So what is the go with doggy bags? Are they illegal as some venues claim? We’ve investigated and answered your questions:

Are Doggy Bags illegal?

There’s certainly a stigma attached to requesting leftovers in Australia and some managers may tell diners its against food safety laws but that’s not true. Food boards in every state say it’s at the restaurants discretion whether they provide this service or not but advise taking the precautions of dating containers and giving instructions on storing and reheating food.

So… Should I allow Doggy Bags in my venue?

In America it is standard practice to offer to bag up what is left of a meal before the customer even asks. But in France it is seen as an un-sophisticated thing to do. There are lots of things to consider, including the risks to your reputation if someone gets sick. But offering to wrap up leftovers will also garner a better reputation among customers who will be more likely to come back again after a great experience.

I’ve decided to allow it. What should I train my staff to do with leftovers?

Your wait staff are on the front line for these decisions and you should make sure they are comfortable with what to do if a customer asks. First off, if you have decided to allow take-away from the table, you’ll need to decide whether to get your staff to actively encourage it. Many customers will love if they don’t have to ask, instead being offered when there is a certain amount left uneaten. Also, some foods may not be suitable for a doggy bag, for example if it has already been reheated. In this instance your wait staff should advise your customers.

If you are going to offer doggy bags though, do them well. Wrap bread separately, package sauces in sealed containers and don’t let anything soggy seep through paper bags. If you want customers to continue to enjoy your food, make it possible to enjoy it!

What can I do to reduce risk?

There is always a risk of food poisoning if food is not stored or handled correctly. The Department of Health offers sticky labels on food hygiene that restaurants can use, or you can create your own. Make sure you encourage customers to cool food quickly, reheat until steaming and keep for no more than 24 hours.

Once the doggy bag is given out it does become the property of your customer, so it is their responsibility to store and handle it correctly, but you obviously still want to minimise the risk of food poisoning.

Doggy bags are often a controversial topic in the foodservice industry, and each venue will have a different view but being educated on the benefits and risks is a good place to start. Do you allow them in your venue? Let us know on our Facebook page.