Is it rude to bring food to a restaurant?

I ask because very often social gatherings with friends center around eating out, usually in places that aren’t very conscientious about keeping prep areas clean. I suffer from allergies to onion and garlic( and milder allergies to oniony flavored things- scallions, shallots, chives, the like), and usually when in a restaurant just order a drink. I can not afford to spend two days throwing up because some cook doesn’t wash a pan before making pancakes and after making a Spanish omelette.

Problem is, sometimes I really do want to eat at these gatherings. Is it considered rude to bring a container of your own food to a restaurant? How should I handle this? I’ve never really been used to eating out, so I have no idea if it’s more rude to bring my own food or ask them to make a safe item.

IMHO, yes.

To just pop out a Tupperware™ full of food at a restaurant is rude. You are in a tough spot with your allergies, but nobody will know that and they’ll naturally assume you are being cheap or something.

I’d suggest you talk to a restaurant manager about your concerns and needs, and perhaps come to some sort of agreement to give your specially prepared food to the kitchen and have it brought out with everybody else’s, and of course slip him a few bucks as an ‘uncorking fee’ (this is actually done with wine at some places, hence the term ‘uncorking fee’).

It’s not an ideal situation for ongoing gatherings, but it may work on occasion.

Unfortunatley, those are the risks we all take when we eat out.

I agree, just doing it cold would be rude. You would need to either:

a) call the restaurant in advance and ask for clean prep or the right to bring food
b) ask while you are there


c) tough it out, although throwing up for 2 days does not sound like fun. You might focus on foods that are much less likely to come in contact with onions, like breads, salads (NO onions, please!!) etc…

I have not heard of that particular allergy - peanuts, wheat and others like that, yes; onions, no - sounds like a pain. Does it respond to allergy injections?

After all the threads I’ve read here about people whose own friends don’t respect their special food needs, I’d be hesitant to trust the restaurant staff to clean the prep area enough to prevent contact with the food in question.

On the other hand, bringing in food could get you kicked out of the restaurant. I’d go with calling and explaining that you’re part of a group that is coming in, but because of your food needs, you have to bring food from home. I’m sure most managers would be okay with that if they were getting a decent amount of income from the others in your group. Don’t bring food from other restaurants, however. I’ve only seen that done for children (like bringing McDonald’s food for young children to a Chinese restaurant). Never bothered me or the people I worked for.

It’s more of a gastrointestinal allergy than a life-threatening, throat-closing one. We can’t figure out what part of the foods makes me sick, so the only prognosis at this point is “Don’t eat it”. This is more difficult than one might think- onion and garlic powder are used to flavor pretty much everything.

In restaurants, the real issue is cross contamination- kitchens are not as clean as most people think, and I’ve gotten sick from toasters that had been used for onion bagels before.

DeadlyAccurate, I read some of those threads and was horrified. What kind of <pit language> would do that?

Seeing as I trust exactly one restaurant in the area, and only for two items, I don’t see that being a problem. It does look ridiculous when adults do that, though.

I know how this goes, I have the same problem, though not as bad as you. Basically I have stopped eating out. I still go every once and awhile and just tell them. I haven’t run in to many problems except when people just don’t listen. You may want to find a “true” ethnic place to eat, I noticed that when I was in Europe for a month I didn’t have any problems because they don’t tend to use as much onion and garlic.

I would say it’s rude to take stuff to a resturant, but maybe you could find a cafe or something like that to go.

I still think that the reason so many people get heartburn and such is because we use so many onion for flavoring. I hate trying to buy stuff even at the store because 90% of everything has either onions or garlic or both in it.

couple months ago someone started thread on bringing your own wine to the restaurant,I would not bring anything to the restaurant except money.

If you have a serious allergy, then that is clearly a “special situation” where bending the rules of etiquette is acceptable. If bringing your own food to a restaurant is what you require, than you can do so. Of course, whipping out a Tupperware and chowing down isn’t okay. But the last thing a restaurant wants to do is cause you illness or worse, and they should be glad to accomodate you, if you approach the situation correctly.

Here’s what I would suggest.

While your party is being seated, ask to speak to the restaurant manager. Speak to him/her out of earshot of other patrons if possible. Probably the most important thing is to take an apologetic tone. Explain that you have “very serious food allergies,” and that you unfortunately can’t risk eating food that you haven’t prepared yourself. Bring a disposable plastic container with a dish that doesn’t require heating or anything. It should be something that can just be put onto a plate. Ask if it would be possible to have the meal plated and brought out with the rest of the entrees. Say that you’ll be happy to pay a “plating fee” if necessary.

Assuming the manager isn’t a moron, he will gladly honor your request. He doesn’t want to hurt you (not because he’s such a nice guy, but because lawsuits suck) and will appreciate the fact that you have arranged it so that it won’t be obvious to the other patrons that you are eating food that you brought. Also, he knows damn well that his prep area isn’t clean and that there is a ton of cross-contamination going on. That’s just how it goes in restaurant kitchens.

You do not have to tell him what your allergy is. The fact that you have a serious one is all the information that he needs. If he protests that they can accomodate any allergy, then be extra-apologetic, and tell him that you have learned the hard way that you have to be this cautious.

And if you get a bad vibe from the manager, go ahead and eat from your disposable container. Apologize to your dining companions and waiter, say you have a very serious food allergy, and don’t feel one bit bad about it.

As an alternative, can you eat an early dinner before going out, and then order dessert? Having worked in a couple kitchens, I’m reasonably confident that the cross-contamination between omelettes and chocolate cake is kept to a minimum :).

If you’re going to talk with the restaurant manager about bringing your own food, though, I’d do it ahead of time: some restaurant managers are unreasonable tweakers who can’t really think about what’s best for their restaurant, and they CAN throw you out if you eat your own food despite their disapproval. Call them ahead of time and suggest that your group’s visit to the restaurant is contingent on your being allowed to bring your own food.

But I think the dessert thing would work fine, and avoid any awkwardness.


I’d suggest talking to the manager beforehand and asking what he’d do. Bringing your own food to a restaurant… I’m not sure it’s RUDE so much as not allowed. But asking first certainly is entirely acceptable, and in your case, they should have be able to accomodate you somehow.

Don’t be shy to ask your friends to stick to restaurants that will, if some won’t. That’s entirely reasonable. Though don’t be offended if they can’t.

UUhhhh… thanks for that. I think.
Green Bean, that was good advice. I wish I had thought of giving it. :wink:

I’m not an allergist, but it sounds like you have a hypersensitivity to “allicins” which are the aromatic components in onions and garlic. My partner has the same affliction - raw or undercooked garlic will leave him curled up in intestinal agony for a day. He has little, if any, trouble with moderate amounts of onion/garlic powder, or if the onion/garlic is well-cooked, and in moderate amount.

If you like onion, and are brave, try the red “bermuda” onions - he can eat them raw with pretty much no ill effect.

My rule of thumb is the less processed , the better. Dried legumes/grains and assorted frozen veggies can get you a huge array of dishes (cheaply to boot). I can just cook up batches of my ingredients and throw them together when I want. Overprocessed canned crap food, you are probably better off without anyway. Have you had issues with most foods made with broth? If you can handle broths, it expands your options immensely. ::Grumble grumble vegetable broth in tuna grumble grumble::

Also, do you tell people about your allergies usually? I usually end up doing so because a college student who cooks tends to stick out, but I’d rather not. Most of the time it’s a safety measure, but I hate getting the pity looks.

Sorry if I’m badgering, I’ve just never met anyone else who has to put up with this.

I agree with everyone who has advised you to speak to the manager ahead of time.

Sorry, but I just have to comment on this:

Do people really do this? If I was running a restaurant and someone did this I would ask them to leave immediately! Why can’t young children eat chinese food? (And personally I wouldn’t give a young child McDonalds, anyway).

I’m with zephyrine on that. I have a 14-year-old nephew who’s been crazy about Chinese food since he was five. And I haven’t been to a Chinese place with my other nephew, who’s three, but I imagine he’d have no problem eating there, since he’s nuts for anything that has noodles in it.

Plus, the kids wouldn’t have to wait for mom or dad to cut up their meat! :smiley:

Once I invited a bunch of my friends to get together at my favorite restaurant, a Turkish teahouse that served hummus etc. at very reasonable prices. We were getting together to discuss a roleplaying game.

Anyway, a couple of my friends show up about fifteen minutes late with a bag of McDonald’s food they’d grabbed from across the street; while we’re eating our hummus etc., they were noshing on burgers and Coke.

I was appalled, but to my everlasting shame, I didn’t say anything to them about it. I think I was thrown by their absolute confidence in their behavior.

Eventually, the restaurant owner–a guy I knew and was friendly with–came up and chewed them out, made them take their food out. We were all pretty embarrassed–rightfully so.

The next day I went back to the restaurant and apologized to him. He blew it off like it was no big deal, but I think he lost a lot of respect for me.

It’s my memory of that event that makes me think it’s a baaad idea to take food into a restaurant, and that you should really check it out with the manager ahead of time, and you should avoid it if at all possible.


It’s been 25 years since I worked in a restaurant, but I remember that outside food was clearly forbidden. I believe the manager even said something about health code violations or maybe liability problems…can’t remember exactly, but the family that tried to bring in KFC to our Pizza Hut because of their picky-eater child was told that their pizza would be boxed up for them and they could take it home because they could not bring in outside food except for baby food. I remember being appalled that they would let this 7-year-old get away with such demanding behavior. I grew up in a household where if you didn’t eat what was served, you went to bed hungry (and no dessert if you didn’t at least eat a goodly portion of your dinner) and the sight of a child dictating that his parents get him something from another restaurant was a shock.

It wasn’t common, but yes, it did sometimes happen. It was almost always for very small children (3-4 years old). It was a family-owned place, so if they didn’t mind, I certainly wasn’t going to say anything. I guess they figured that it was better business. After all, two adult customers buying a meal while a small child eats a burger and fries is bound to be better business than running those two paying adults out of the store just because little Billy doesn’t like General Tso chicken.

This phenomenon of bringing food from one restaurant into another- they don’t think that bringing KFC into a Pizza hut will upset the Pizza Hut manager? :eek:
It’s just common sense not to openly patronize the opposition inside a restaurant. People amaze me sometimes.

Left Hand of Dorkness, the dessert idea is one I do take up sometimes- too often and my figure would feel it. :frowning: . But Perkins makes wonderful pie…

It’s not can’t, it’s won’t. I was one of those kids. My parents went to a place like DeadlyAccurate describes, and the owners were okay with my parents bringing in a hamburger for me. By the time I was seven or so, I finally realized I was missing something, because my baby brother liked chinese food, and he hated (still does) almost everything. But it’s as DeadlyAccurate said, the Chinese place liked selling 2 meals than 0…I know that the one time it wasn’t okay with a particular manager my parents went to back to McDonalds.