Food portions in the U.S.

This thread indicates that visitors are amazed at the size of food portions at U.S. restaurants. Yeah, they give you a lot of food. Too much. It is quite common for me to take half of my lunch home and have it for dinner or the next morning’s breakfast. I call it Bachelour Kibble™. Since I live alone I can eat what I want without regard to what someone else wants. Super-large portions are good for me because I can get two or three (or even four) meals for $12. And I don’t have to cook it. (Although I do like to cook. But when I do, I usually have enough for several servings because that’s how ingredients are often sold.)

I would rather have lower prices and smaller portions, but I’ve adapted to the situation. How about you?

I’m with you. I hate wasting food, especially those times when it’s been about half my meal, but sometimes you go out to eat and can’t take the leftovers with you because they’d sit in the car for hours. I’ve actually planned evenings out with the intent of eating last just so we can take the leftovers home.

I enjoy leftovers, but I’d be just as happy if I got smaller portions and a break on the cost of the dinner. I can’t count the number of times leftovers sorta slipped to the back of the fridge, only to be rediscovered when they were green and fuzzy…

I can rarely consume an entire entree served in a typical American restaurant. The styrofoam express means I’ve only a fork to wash after dinner, unless, of course, the take home portion joins the ever-present experimental population that ** FairyChatMom** describes.

Don’t get me started on the portion size thing.

I’m convinced that it’s contributing (NOTE: contributing, not the ENTIRE reason) to this country’s problem with obesity. It has gotten to the point that it’s hard to know what a “serving” of a food is, because we’ve gotten used to gargantuan portion sizes in restaurants.

I’m trying to keep off some weight I’ve lost. I find it hellishly difficult to do that when eating at a restaurant. It’s hard to find a place that gives me a reasonable amount of food.

I, too, would prefer smaller portions at a lower price. Hell, there are times when I’d settle for just getting less food! I don’t care if I have to pay the same, I just don’t want to be tempted with excess food!

My metabolism’s still pretty fast. So I’m all in favor of them.

I have a tough time with this because I prefer to eat more but smaller meals. So when I go to restaurants, I feel bad about consuming a small amount and insisting to the waitperson that yes, the food was fine but I have a small appetite. What’s worse is when I can’t bring home the leftovers for whatever reason and then I feel really bad - like when I’m going out after dinner and the food won’t be refrigerated promptly enough for my liking, at a restaurant while staying out of town, and so on.

I’m quite partial to leftovers myself. Zap 'em in the microwave and you have a ready made meal, no mess and no fuss. (BTW, do you call them ‘doggie bags’ in the US?) However, I heard a rumour a few weeks ago that the restaurant practice of giving you a box to take your left-over food home may be under threat. Why? Consider this question:

If I take food home from a restaurant and later consume it at home, who is responsible if I fall ill from eating this food? The restaurant? They cooked the food. For 50c, they even put it in a box it for me to take home. So when I fall stricken with a nasty case of gastro, it should be on their shoulders, right?

Or, maybe it was my fault. Maybe I fell ill because I failed to store this box of food safely. I left it out in the lounge room all night. It turned bad over night and it was no longer safe to consume. I should have refrigerated it, but I neglected to do so.

OTOH, I didn’t know I was meant to refrigerate this food. I thought it was okay to eat it after leaving it out all night. The restaurant didn’t warn me I might become ill if I ate it after 10 hours at room temperature. They failed to tell me this food correctly belongs in the fridge.

(Contrast food bought from a supermarket: it comes labelled with instructions for safe storage and consumption.)

Moreover, we may ask whether this food was in fact hygenically safe when I left the restaurant. After all, it had been sitting on my plate - tainted by saliva and gawd knows what else - for a hour or so. Nonetheless, the restaurant thought it fit to sell me a box and to take all this potentially harmful food home with me. So shouldn’t they bear some responsibility?
Ridiculous, isn’t it? But at least it’s something to think about when my local Chinese gives me a box for the Sang Fa chicken I couldn’t finish. :slight_smile:

Yeah, they’re called “doggie bags”; but I’ve seen some that say “people bag” on them. (Come on, who the hell gives their leftover prime rib to the dog?) Mostly now, we get the styro boxes. Do you really have to pay extra for them in Oz?

I wouldn’t count on much of a price reduction for smaller portions. Standard wisdom - confirmed by a friend who’s a chef for Sodexho - is that in most restauarants, raw ingredients are usually the cheapest part of the meal. What you’re paying for is labor, rent, etc. That’s part of the reason enormous portions are so popular: they cost the restaurant almost nothing, but they convince diners that they’re getting good value, making it more likely that they’ll return.

Ours is not a culture that has valued quality over quantity, y’know :D. Mass market reached its perfection here - and now it’s mass measured in avoirdupois…

Narrad, they make you pay for your take home box? I have never heard of such a thing. At the restaurant that I work at we give you the box for free, not only that, but we will wrap it up for you too. Maybe things are different in America, but I don’t think that I have ever been charged for a box to put my leftovers in. As for the “Who’s at fualt?” question. It seems like something like that would run on a case by case basis.

What are these ‘leftovers’ of which you speak?

Seriously, I love leftovers. They usually become my next day’s lunch. But you’re right, we 'Murrikans seem to be obsessed with food, and lots of it. Restaurants should give us smaller portions, but I think it’s a selling point for them, *“Come to MacDairyKing, home of the ‘Cowburger’![sup]TM[/sup] That’s right! an entire cow, right there on your bun! Get yours now!” * We’re conditioned to believe that bigger is better.

BTW, I think there is enough overhead involved in getting the food to your table that smaller portions don’t result in much of a reduction in price, but many U.S. restaurants do have a ‘lite’ section on their menus. Or you could ask for a ‘kiddie’ or ‘senior’ plate. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

[aside] Narrad, it saddens me to think that you Aussies are headed down the same *“anything that happens to me must be somebody else’s fault” * path we’ve stumbled down here in the States. I’ve always had this picture in my mind of you folks as being more level-headed about that sort of stuff than we are.

I love the large portions. But I’m a big guy (tall, not heavy) with a pretty fast metabolism, so I’m definitely the exception, not the norm. And yet, most entrees are just right for me. (My fiancee gets dinner plus one or two lunches out of her order when we go out.)

It’s actually pretty weird – it would be like me going to Japan and having all the furniture, doorways, etc. built just right for a 6’8" guy.

Yes, compared to what I see in restaurants in other parts of the world, US portions are very large. I think McDonald’s started some sort of dollar menu. The yogurt parfait is just right. The original size is way too big. I notice also that some places have smaller sized portions for senior citizens & kids.


Yep, it’s reasonably common to charge 50c or so for the service of packing your leftovers in a plastic box. It’s mainly cheaper, local places that charge you. Seems the classier joints - assuming one is daring enough to ask (in a hushed voice) for a doggie bag - will do it for free.

Running things on a case by case basis is fine, but that’s not how it works. All it would take is a few well-publicised cases of restaurants being sued (imagine the headlines!) for the rest of them to change their policy.

When I lived in England, portion sizes were not large enough. I would eat my meal, then the half of my ex-wife’s meal she couldn’t finish. (That happens when you’re 6’2" and exercise almost every day, and she’s 5’4" and a size 6-8 UK.)

When I came back to the US, I thought, hey, finally enough to eat at restaurants! Cripes. Most places you go give you enough to feed a pack of ravening wolves. The worst offenders are the “Tchotchkey’s” types (TGI Friday’s, Applebee’s, etc.), where even a salad comes in Holy Roman Empire size. And it’s not like you can reheat a salad the next day, after the lettuce has wilted and the tomatoes have shriveled. I used to go there with my parents, and my mom would not even be able to finish an appetizer. My weight, shall we say, started going up faster than a pinball machine score.
[sub]OK, mini-rant over[/sub]

I agree with Bumbazine, I think they use it as a selling point.

I don’t know too much about the economics of running a restaurant, but my guess is that the actual cost of the food probably makes a relatively small percent of the total operating cost. If so, it would mean that the restaurant could reduce the portion size by 50%, but would still have to charge 90% of the price to make the same profit. And then people would complain that the food was overpriced.

My wife and I often share entrees, sometimes with a side dish or appetizer.

OK, I want to move to the US where they have huge food portions.

When I read the OP, this was exactly the first thing that came to mind. In most restaurants, food cost is approximately 30% of your entree (drinks and other items are a different matter). It doesn’t change the cost of the entree by all that much by adding a few more ounces of meat and vegetables. Food is often arranged (well, in your classier joints, anyways) to look like much larger portions, as it’s a perceived difference of quantity and value. It’s a little sneaky, but it fits in with the “bigger is better” thought process.

I’m honestly on the fence about this practice, because there are times where I really do appreciate it, like when last night’s dinner is brought home to be the next day’s lunch–which means one less meal to cook. But, there are times where I may have something that I don’t want leftovers of (i.e. salads) and I end up feeling awfully guilty that I can’t finish them. I hate wasting food.

One of the things I adore about the restaurant I’m working at now is that their portions are pretty well-controlled and not excessive–they are definitely into quality over quantity there, and it shows.

I gained 30 lbs after moving here; it’s quite distressing. My wife doesn’t much care for leftovers, either, so if I forget to eat them for lunch, all that food goes to waste.

The funniest thing is that they don’t want you to have smaller portions. A couple of times, I’ve asked for something from the old folks’ or kids’ menu, offered to pay full price, and been totally shot down.

“Look, I’ll pay however much extra, could I please just have the kids’ grilled cheese?”

“But sir, with the adult grilled cheese, you get four types of cheese, extra bacon on top, twice as many french fries, and coleslaw as well!”

“But I don’t want that much!”

“Well, you could always take the rest home…”

“Or I could have the kids’ size, and eat the whole thing, you get your money, and I’m happy!”

“…? I don’t see why you don’t want the adult portion, sir…”