Why get food to go then eat at the restaurant?

I have seen this several times recently, last night being a case in point. Family of four comes into pizza place, orders something like two slices, three sub sandwiches, a couple of orders of fries, and some garlic knots. To go.
Guys behind counter put slices in a pizza box, fries and knots go in little metal containers with tops, sandwiches get wrapped up. All of it goes in several small paper bags and everything finally encased in large paper bag.
Family goes to booth, sits down, and tears it all apart and eats.
Why??? Why not get it to eat in? It was clearly always the plan, not a last second “oh lets just eat here”. It would have saved all kinds of time for the workers and quite a lot of packaging (eg, pizza slices on a plate instead of a big cardboard pizza box).
What is the purpose of this? Any clues? They didnt save anything for later or eat some and then wrap up because they had to go. They ate everything.
I’m mildly bitter about the waste but more confused about the purpose.

It is my understanding that, at least here in Ohio, you don’t have to pay taxes on food that is bought to-go, but you do on food that is eaten on site. Perhaps they are trying to save a few bucks.

The chinese place I go to have such big meals, I can’t eat it all anyway. So I just eat what I can there and take the rest with me.

Yeah, I often ask for something to go, eat half of it in the restaurant, and take the rest with me. That way I get the bag and whatnot.

I can’t explain the example in the OP, but I have seen this a couple times, usually at the Panda Express I like to go to. If you eat there, you get a flimsy paper plate that the food soaks right through. If you get it to go, you get a much sturdier plastic container. I figure, at least in that specific instance, the person ordering to go just prefers the plastic container.

In the UK, you actually pay a higher price for “take-away”. I believe to cover the cost of the bag, napkins, etc. So there is a incentive to not act as described in the OP.

This used to drive me crazy when I ran my pizza restaurant in San Jose. I attribute this to a sandwich chain called Togos. IIRC, they don’t charge tax on their take-out orders as long as the food isn’t cooked, or something like that. So stupid people automatically assume that this means saying “to go” in any restaurant means they don’t get charged tax.

The thing is, food cost the same in my restaurant either way, but was more expensive for me when these yokels would say “to go” then eat in the restaurant. Many times, with repeat offenders, I would do my best to politely explain that they would pay the same either way, but it never seemed to make any difference. :mad:

I think that’s the case in PA too (or at least in some municipalities). I used to live near a pizza place that apparently got into some kind of trouble with the tax authorities and had to start actively enforcing a policy of not allowing take-out customers to sit down and eat onsite.

I found this out one night when I came in to pick-up my order at the same time a family of five was causing a scene over it. They were refusing to get up from their booth or pay the tax. I couldn’t hee what the father was saying clearly, but whatever it was it was enougth for the owner to threaten to call the cops. Didn’t stay to find out how that ended.

Is it the kind of restaurant where you’d get waited on? If so, maybe avoiding paying a tip also? If not, then maybe just the tax thing.

My wife and I just did this at a Panda Express while we were out of town. Our hotel room had a microwave and refrigerator, and we figured that we’d take the leftovers back and reheat them. We almost always have leftovers from Panda Express. This time, it turns out that we were hungrier than we thought and ate it all.

Another thought that pops into my mind is that if it’s a family with small children, they might want to have the ability to make a quick getaway without wasting the food. If little Johnny starts throwing a fit halfway through your meal, you can just grab the container and remove him and eat the rest later after you’ve put him to bed.

I can think of three other scenarios here:

  1. portion sizes - some places are known for being more generous/stingy on the same meal when it is eaten in versus to go. It can go either way depending on the restaurant. In my case, I remember an Indian food place at the mall food court I used to go to that gave you a good 50% more meat if you ordered it to go. If you ordered it for there, in addition to a flimsy paper plate versus a substantial styrofoam container, you got a lot more rice and a smaller amount of meat. The same thing may exist for your Italian place. Maybe you get more pizza toppings when you get it “to go”.

  2. along those same lines multiple orders of the same item = more food when you get it to go. I would say this is the case in most Thai restaurants. If you get two orders of the garlic and pepper chicken and eat in, you may really get 1.75 orders of it on one plate combined, versus two full containers of it when it is to go.

  3. keeping portions separate - in the same scenario as 2 if the multiple portions are combined on one plate and kids are involved, mayhem may ensue. Perhaps little Jimmy eats twice as fast as little Johnny and therefore eats more than his allotted half. Perhaps he steals all the meatballs from both halves. If everyone gets their own container, then they already have their established portion.

I’ve been known to do this when I’m in a hurry, or if I think I may have to leave on little notice. Having the container already means I don’t need to wait around.


That was my first thought. If little Johnny sometimes pitches a hissy fit in a restaurant, but there’s no way to tell ahead of time whether he’s gonna do at THIS meal, then it would make sense to just order stuff to go.

In my experience, this is most often done by people who do not trust the dishwashing practices at an establishment. I used to have to run people out of Waffle House for this all the time. If the same food would have been served on a washable, reusable plate (cup, bowl, whatever) and especially silverware, some people won’t touch it with a 10 foot pole.

I would always accommodate if someone asked only for a plastic fork, or to-go cup if they knew they might be leaving at any time, but if someone ordered their entire meal to go and tried to sit down and eat it I would absolutely ask them to leave. The up-charge for to-go orders was not enough to pay for the plastic dinnerware, or me having to clean up your garbage.

What Time Like Tears said. I worked at an independent pizza place in Atlanta that was having a problem with people ordering to go and then eating in, leaving all their trash behind and using up a to go box for no reason. If asked, they would tell us that they did not trust dishes that we washed (occasionally one would even mention some sort of urban legend about restaurant dish soap causing infertility). It got to be enough of an issue that we implemented a “to go orders must be eaten off premises” policy.

This is an idea I can get behind.

There is a certain fine-dining establishment that I occasionally frequent. While I usually choose to eat and one of their candle-lit tablecloth-covered tables, they always give me my food in a McBag.

Or maybe they’re doing it so they don’t have to wait for it. They just come in and can sit down and eat their hot and ready meal.

Are you sure? The only time I’ve ever seen a different price listed for eat-in and take-away used to be at McDonald’s, where the milkshakes were a few pence cheaper for takeaway because for that specific item it made a difference tax-wise: it was an ordinary grocery item if taken away (so tax free) but a ‘luxury’ food item if eaten in, so subject to VAT. All the other foods were ‘luxury’ food items anyway so there was only one price for them.

Don’t these idiots realize that the kitchen uses that infertility-causing dish soap to wash the pots & utensils used to prepare the food?

Oh, they also used a table that might have been needed by people wanting a comparatively civilized dinner. Who might even have tipped the employees!

Glad that you implemented that policy.