You may feel a bit redfaced about asking for a doggy bag at the end of a delicious meal out, but Belfast City Council is urging you to get over it — for the environment.
The council has teamed up with chefs from Belfast Cookery School to persuade restaurants to offer full-up diners a Bring Home Box in a bid to cut the vast tonnes of food waste we generate each year.
A typical restaurant dumps some 21 tonnes of waste every year — equivalent to the weight of three double decker buses.
As well as adding to the waste mountain, it also increases costs for food businesses. That’s why the council is asking restaurants to sign up to the initiative as part of European Week for Waste Reduction (Nov 17-25).
“The Americans started the concept of the ‘doggy bag’ but it’s something that has never really taken off on these shores — maybe because people feel too embarrassed to ask to take their leftovers home, or because they think they’ll be seen as greedy,” said Pat McCarthy (below), who chairs the council’s Health and Environmental Services Committee.
“Portion sizes can sometimes be quite big and the way I see it, if you’ve paid for it, you’re entitled to take it home.”
And it looks like most restaurants are only too happy to provide a doggy bag when asked.
The Belfast Telegraph contacted 10 of the city’s top restaurants, asking if they could accommodate a relative who likes to take home her leftovers.
Nine said it was no problem. The 10th, 4th Wall in St Anne’s Square, said they weren’t allowed to on health and safety grounds, because all food bought on the premises must be eaten there.
According to the council, about a third of the waste from Belfast’s restaurant comes from food left over on the diners’ plates — so it makes sense to wrap it and take it home.”
The Sustainable Restaurant Association, says 83% of diners surveyed would like the option of being able to take leftovers home, but didn’t think they could or were too embarrassed to ask.
Shea Trainor, a chef with Belfast Cookery School, said: “While restaurants try to get their portion sizes right, there can be times when diners can’t finish their meal and it is a shame to see perfectly good food going to waste.
“Restaurants incur costs for the waste they generate so we think this is a great initiative by Belfast City Council — it’s a win-win situation for food businesses and customers.”
Mr McCarthy said: “We have provided a food waste recycling service for 70,000 homes in Belfast so we thought we’d turn our attention to eating out.”
To find out more, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/bringhomebox, or to find out how your food business can get involved contact 08000 328 100.
But will Belfast’s top spots let you take leftovers home?
“We’ll try and accommodate that. Anything consumed off site, we wouldn’t take responsibility for if it had been reheated.”
“Yes, we’ll do our best. We can pack the stuff up, no problem.”
Mourne Seafood Bar, Belfast
“Yes, not a problem at all.”
“Just whatever meat you had left? Yes, that’s fine.”
“We don’t have bags but you’re welcome to take anything away in a piece of tinfoil or we have containers.”
James Street South
“Of course, no problem. Anything you want to take away, we’ll have tinfoiled up for you.”
“No, we’re not allowed to do that. It’s totally against health and safety regulations. Anything that is bought on the premises must be eaten on the premises.”
“Yes, that’s part of the service.”
“Yes, not a problem. Just ask the waiting staff if you want to take something away and they will wrap it up for you.”
“”Yes, we can just wrap it in tinfoil, whatever is left over.”
“Of course, no bother at all. No problem.”