Kapiti Coast restaurant bans doggy bags, citing health and safety risk
A Kapiti Coast restaurant has banned doggy bags, citing health and safety.
"If someone takes food home, doesn't heat it properly and gets sick, they'll probably blame us," Phil Ryan, owner of The Social at Kapiti Lights, said.
"Some people got upset they couldn't take a burger home, but it's all about food safety."
But the Ministry of Primary Industries is clear that food taken home from a restaurant becomes the responsibility of the diner, and Kapiti Coast District Council, along with other councils in the Wellington region, said it had no rules against doggy bags.
The ministry's website says: "Operators may refuse to let leftovers be taken home because they run the risk their food could be mishandled and then blamed if someone becomes ill.
"If you take the food away, the safety of that food is up to you."
However, Ryan said most restaurants par-cooked their food, so customers could be reheating their leftovers for a third time, leaving them at risk of getting sick.
"I would rather have a bad review for keeping people safe than making people sick. It's not about ripping people off, honestly."
The Social is not alone in being wary of letting customers take leftovers home. Duck Creek restaurant, in Pauatahanui, tries to stop diners taking chicken away.
"We strongly discourage that," head chef Dean McFarland said. "If it's a steak or some chips that's fine, but chicken can go off too quickly."
Most diners understood the reasoning, and it was leftovers of another kind that got most diners riled, he said.
"We have more trouble with the people wanting to take half a bottle of wine home, they're the ones that get annoyed. Our licence doesn't allow it, so we'll hold it for them to finish when they come back."
CUSTOM, NOT A RIGHT
Maggie Edwards, consumer adviser at Consumer NZ, said the practice of taking food home was a custom, not a right.
"People think they have paid for the food and can take it off the premises, but it's a customary thing."
She understood why the restaurant was being extra cautious.
"There are more older people [in Kapiti], and older people are more vulnerable to food poisoning ..."
In Wellington, Logan Brown owner Steve Logan said doggy bag requests were welcome, and it was flattering to be asked for one.
"We like to treat our customers like adults and trust they have the common sense not to leave food lying on the bench when they take it home.
"These days you don't want to say no to the customer, ever. They're all-powerful, and always right in hospitality."
Staff at Monsoon Poon were also happy to bag up uneaten food for their customers, restaurant manager Sophie Garnham said.
"We've done doggy bags for 15 years and never had a problem ... I understand people getting angry if they're told they can't take their food home."
Roderick Boys, of Wellington City Council's Love Food Hate Waste programme, said there was no legal health and safety barrier to prevent restaurants from offering doggy bags. Some just used it as an excuse.
A "Love Your Leftovers" programme would be launched in November.