Ask The Salty Waitress: The Server Threw Out My Leftovers

Hi Salty, I went to a restaurant yesterday with my family. As the server cleared our table, I asked that the three leftover chicken breasts please get wrapped. We then had dessert and paid the bill before realizing the food was never wrapped. When we finally got another hold of her, she apologized, saying she didn't realize I wanted it wrapped.

I didn't fuss but, at the end of the day, it's paid food that was discarded. Should a customer ask for another to be done? I've never considered it but she threw out a decent amount that I wanted and asked for. But we'd already paid and tipped her. What say you?

Thanks, Hungry For Leftovers


Dear Hungry,

I'll admit, I've been this server. My brain's going in a thousand different directions and in my rush, I scraped those leftovers right into the trash.

What I do next depends on how big the leftover portions were. If it was a piece of salmon the size of my pinkie finger, I usually just apologize and tell the table I'll take something small—dessert, a drink—off the bill. That usually seems to resolve it. If the leftovers were bigger, like a whole family-style dish no one touched, I'll ask if the table wants me to have the kitchen prepare another, but I'll warn them that it could take 20 minutes. Hardly anyone takes me up on it, but they can't say I didn't offer. Most people are pretty nice about it—they get that mistakes happen and they don't want to stick around waiting for a replacement.


So for you, the question comes down to: How much are those three chicken breasts worth to you? But wait, first thing's first—three leftover chicken breasts? Was this The Cheesecake Factory? Lord have mercy on our portion size. Since you'd already paid when you noticed the missing leftovers, the server couldn't take anything off your bill unless you want to wait while they cancel the transaction and run your card again. Unless the restaurant threw away an entirely uneaten dish, it's really not their responsibility to refund you the cost of the dish. A free dessert or drink is usually a nice gesture, but hardly any place is going to knock $25 off your bill because they threw away the 20% of the food you didn't eat. Sure, you could have asked for the kitchen to remake those three chicken breasts, but then you're waiting again, if they even say yes.

So that's all it comes down to: How much are you willing to do for those leftovers? Wait an extra 20 minutes for new ones? Make a fuss when your whole family is ready to leave? The restaurant made a mistake and should try to make it up to you if they can, but only you can say whether it's worth the aggravation. I'd just chalk this up to a little bad luck and forget about it.


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