Wednesday, 18 January 2017

What a waste

I recently came across yet another of those articles on Annoying things pub-goers do that infuriate staff. Even by the standards of such things, this was pretty thin gruel and, given that staff are supposed to be there to serve customers, I always think that Annoying things bar staff do that infuriate customers should be accorded more importance.

However, the final item on the list rang a bell with me:

Over order food they don’t eat
This one came as a surprise to us at the Watford Observer, but it is worthy of feeling wound up. The head chef said plates coming back less than half empty is one of the most annoying things, wasting both food, stock, their time and your money.
But, if half-full plates are constantly coming back, maybe you need to look at what you’re sending out in the first place. Are the portions far too big, or is the food pretty unappetising anyway? Or are you offering food in ill-matched combinations where customers don’t want everything lumped together? In which context, the previous gripe is also relevant:
Edit the menu
If you don’t like something, or have an allergy, the staff completely understand. However, when you look through the menu, pick out an array of ingredients from different dishes and then create your own dinner, making things difficult for both bar staff and chefs, then things get annoying.
I’ve written before about how people have all kinds of odd dietary preferences, ranging from those dictated by genuine medical reasons to simple faddiness. But, all too often, pubs (and other dining outlets) insist that you have specific combinations of items even if they’re not all necessarily to your taste. Yes, in general pubs will be obliging if you ask to omit certain items, but may not be too receptive if you ask for noodles rather than mash with your sausages. And people are understandably reluctant to stick their necks out and ask for combinations that the menu doesn’t specifically offer – otherwise they might end up on a list of gripes!

I freely admit to being a distinctly fussy eater, and I sometimes find myself ordering dishes where I know that some of the components will remain mostly uneaten. I don’t really like doing it, and try to go for dishes where I know I can eat everything, but sometimes there’s no alternative. For example, I sometimes take advantage of the meal deals on burgers in Wetherspoon’s. I know the chips are pretty flabby and horrible, and I won’t eat more than a couple. But it’s still decent value even if I leave them.

So, if you don’t want to waste food, perhaps you should consider offering much more flexibility as to which items people want to match with others. At the end of the day, if you have lots of uneaten food coming back to the kitchen, you need to look at your own practices rather than blaming the customers.

And I thought menu hacking was supposed to be trendy nowadays!


  1. The portion size thing is very relevant: I eat quite a lot, so comfortably finish most pub meals. My wife, however, has a small appetite, and will often only eat half-three quarters, and as I'm supposed to be losing weight, I won't always eat the rest (and sometimes she might want something I dislike). Some places have the good sense to offer small portions (notably The Bamburgh Castle had the good sense to offer a good proportion of the menu in smaller portions, not just a kids menu), which gives people a choice, and presumably avoids some wastage, while allowing for fat gits like me.

    1. Portion size is maybe more of an issue for takeaways than pubs, altohugh I do remember going in one pub offering a "belly-busting pound of chips"!

      Also smaller portions are often stigmatised as "pensioners' portions".

    2. 'spoons generally offer you the choice of salad if you don't like their awful chips. But the Marston food pubs offer the choice of chips, french fries or hash browns.

    3. The Daily Mash nailed the takeaway thing:

    4. Big portions of poor quality food is normal in wetherspoons/marstons/m+b/greene king. It's not value for money, imo.

    5. The general consensus is that the portions of chips in Spoons aren't even generous, let alone any good.

    6. Indeed - the food in wetherspoons is mediocre quality and small portions - apart from the breakfasts. However you know what you're going to get, its cheapish, and there is usually a decent choice of beer.

      If you have a viable alternative, eat elsewhere. But so often when at the airport or in a strange town, spoons is often the safe option.

      Better than going to maccie d's.

  2. Simple solution.

    Spend a quid in the pound bakery & sit in a quiet corner of the pub with your cheapo pint of bitter and see if the barstaff call you out for bringing in your own pasties.

  3. There is an additional problem in describing smaller portions as 'pensioner portions'. Some women of my acquaintance decided they wanted smaller meals and ordered the pensioner option, and were slightly miffed when the waitress accepted that they qualified without a murmur!

  4. Great writing Mudgie!

    I'm a fan of "all you can eat" Chinese buffet places, and in those you do see people taking platesful of food just for the sake of it, only for most of it to be scraped into the bin.

    Pub grub? You can't beat the Swan With Two Necks in Pendleton, on the slopes of Pendle Hill near Clitheroe.

    1. Actually, the general experience of buffet restaurants is that they reduce food waste because people don't take piles of stuff they know they're not going to eat. See this post from a few years ago.

      "Whitbread manager Simon Ewins says Taybarns orders the same amount of chips for 8,000 meals a week as the previous pub ordered for 2,000. Probably a lot of those chips with the 2,000 meals were left on the plate."

      When I'm away I always make a point of looking for Chinese buffets, but not all towns have them.


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