Clean Your Plate: NYC Restaurant Charging Patrons for Uneaten Food
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Clean Your Plate: NYC Restaurant Charging Patrons for Uneaten Food

A review of the shocking story of a NYC restaurant charging extra if you don't finish your meal, and the potential problems this could lead to.

Recently, I listened with unbelief to a news clip on the radio, which told of a New York City Restaurant charging its patrons extra for any food left on their plate after they had finished dining!  Hayashi Ya Japanese Restaurant is a buffet-style eatery where diners can load their plates with a variety of foods for $26.95 US...unless you don't clean your plate.  According to the news report I heard, you could expect to pay up to an extra 20% for the food you don't eat, but are offered a discount if you eat every last morsel. What?  Refunding money if you lick the plate clean? However, when I checked into this story further, the only news clips I discovered (while looking on the Internet) report that the surcharge is apparently only 3% extra.  Still, this is unbelievable!  How could anyone get away with this...and furthermore, why?

The manager of the restaurant explains he implemented the extra charge because of all the food that gets thrown away, which ends up costing them...  So, the bottom line is, their bottom line.  Understandably, there are many people who can't afford much to eat, let alone to eat out, while others are wastefully gluttonous.  I'm sure we've all witnessed people waddling to the buffet for their third, heaped plate of food, only to leave half of it, and go back for something different; this, to me, is a disgusting display of excess.  So, while the manager of Hayashi Ya believes that the surcharge for not finishing your meal will compel people to take less food (and hence waste less food), it could also lead to the exact opposite behaviour:  people eating beyond a comfortable capacity, just because they have paid for it.  So, while ostensibly this goal is noble and good (reducing waste), it could also lead to the growing problem of obesity.  According to the World Health Organization (quoting from their website):

•Globally, there are more than 1 billion overweight adults, at least 300 million of them obese.

•Obesity and overweight pose a major risk for chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and certain forms of cancer.

•The key causes are increased consumption of energy-dense foods high in saturated fats and sugars, and reduced physical activity.

It is obvious, from these statistics, that people today do not need any encouragement to eat more food than their body requires.  And, even if you were first admonished by your mother to clean your plate, and therefore you are still in the habit, is there really a need for a proprietor to carry on this same, outdated maxim?  If one restaurant does it, then another, and another, until it becomes a trend...what will this signify for the health of the nation?

Photo credit Stock.xchng

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Comments (16)

I like that you take a devils advocates approach to this idea. Though, I must admit I see it a stretch to think this will follow the path you fear. It seems to me perhaps initial experience of this surcharge may indeed influence people to clean the plate. I would then assume after people begin paying more or suffer the stomach ache of over eating that it will click in their minds to think before they pile the plate. It will certainly be interesting to see, I would assume this could become a trend which in the long run may lead toward smaller American portions... as it is we like piles of food more than portions.

Ranked #4 in New York, NY

Although it wasn't my intention to play the devil's advocate, I understand why you may think that. As I mention in my article, I think it is laudable that someone is trying to reduce waste and encourage more sensible eating. I truly do hope that this method will have the desired outcome...but based on what I see all around me, I would conclude that many people will be more concerned with getting their money's worth. I hope I'm wrong!

This was a very interesting discussion, about a very surprising story. Thanks for flagging it up.

Ranked #8 in New York, NY

Not a bad idea, the intention is good but perhaps a little more thought should be put into finding a solution to the problem. restaurants in my area, and wedding halls donate all left over food at the end of the day to soup kitchens.

Interesting restaurant. I will not eat there unless I'm dead hungry.

On the other side, I believe that people must be taught about consumption, whatever left-over foods lead to a collective chain reaction on scarcity. A thoughtful write.

Ranked #4 in New York, NY

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments: *Petal - donating untouched food is a very good idea if there is a means of doing so while the food is still in good condition. I was co-manager of a bakery where we donated all of the bread at the end of the day, rather than selling it day-old or throwing it out. *deep blue - One definitely has to be "dead hungry" to eat at a buffet! *Ron - Education about food consumption, portion control and eating more slowly so the brain has time to register a feeling of fullness are all important, and could use to be implimented more readily. The information is already widely available for those who wish to partake. The sad reality in today's world (especially western cultures) is that there really is no need for scarcity of food...but there unfortunately exists people with excess (who sometimes are wasteful and also glutonous), and those with little - and a huge gap of how to equalize this unbalance. Cheers to all, and thanks for reading.

Ranked #4 in New York, NY

Michael! I didn't mean to leave you out! Thank you for your comments...I think this is a very interesting discussion with many views and ideas being brought forth. Thanks for the contribution!

My first reaction to your headline was a hope that they at least serve reasonable-sized portions. Then I saw it was a buffet. Enforcing the policy will be easier said than done, but at a buffet, at least, it seems reasonable. Meanwhile, there's probably a way for them to donate food left on the buffet to a "soup kitchen," but certainly not what's left on peoples' plates. I remember being aghast in college at the number of people who loaded up their trays with food that they had no intention of touching. (Who eats four servings of creamed spinach? But lots of people threw out four servings of creamed spinach!)

Great article, and really interesting discussion, especially now when a lot of people think restaurant portions are too big. I can see where you shouldn't take too much at a buffet. On the other hand, I can almost never finish a meal when we eat out, unless it's someplace like McDonald's where I know how big everything is.

Ranked #4 in New York, NY

David thank you for your insightful comments. Perhaps the surcharge will have the desired effect--I certainly hope so, as yes, there is too much food in general being wasted today. Kathleen, it is difficult to judge from a menu what size of portions you will receive. The difference with a buffet is that people can choose how much they take, so very little food should theoretically be wasted. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Wow, that's nuts lol! You can't bring home leftovers, lol.

Ranked #4 in New York, NY

Most buffet restaurants won't allow you to take home leftovers...otherwise you could heap a plate and not eat a bite of it, leaving enough food for another entire meal (or 3) at home. Thanks for reading and commenting, Amy!

Yes, it does seem rather ridiculous to charge for food not eaten by patrons. What happened to doggy bags? I don't eat at buffets, so it won't affect me. But it's definitely a recipe for obesity that's all to prevalent here in the USA. Interesting read and great write. You've got my vote!

Ranked #4 in New York, NY

Richard, thanks so much for your comments. I don't eat much at buffets either, but I have seen people gorge themselves at buffets, and frankly, it turns my stomach.

The last time I ate at a buffet I remember only having small (saucer-sized) plates available for loading on the grub, which is quite frankly a brilliant idea. Number one- you can combat over-gorging by discourage heaps of food (there's only so much you can fit on a saucer); number two- you can encourage physical activity by using small plates so that each time you empty it, you have to go up and get more.... and if you're really hungry that means more than once or twice! I think that this restaurant has the right idea. Once people are aware of this charge, they obviously must think twice about portions and (I think) are LESS likely to overeat as their second helping will be considerably smaller than it would be had there have been no restrictions in regards to left-overs. As far as restaurants go- they should offer a discount to left-overs left on the plate, because in that case there would be a reward for portion-controlled behavior. Interesting article. I also enjoy your devil's advocate approach.

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