Etiquette in Question: Do You Take Home Leftovers of Terrible Food to Avoid Uncomfortable Questions From Your Server?

Our journey to better navigate the world of dining out.


My notes read in questions: Boxed grits? Is this shrimp even cooked? Should a pork sandwich consist mostly of iceberg lettuce? Why does the menu list this—an obvious roll—as a biscuit?

It wasn’t a good night for eating.

My husband and I ate only a few bites of food, terribly saddened by its awfulness. I wanted to leave the plates mostly untouched, not only to show the kitchen that this food wasn’t edible, but to see how our server would react. Would he notice our lack of clean plates?  Would he ask us about it? 

As someone who avoids awkward conversations—or really, any uncomfortable situation; he leaves the room during painful conversations on television (mostly all of “Girls”)—my husband, before I could state otherwise, asked the server to box the food. This eliminated the “Did you not enjoy your meal?” conversation, or whatever the server’s reaction might have been. 

This is probably a common mode of averting a possibly hostile, unpleasant or thorny confrontation.  But what we might have missed is the chance for the restaurant to fix the problem or address it in a constructive manner. Or at least, to apologize.

As we paid the check, we overheard a man at the bar returning his plate. When the restaurant offered something else, he refused. I smiled at my husband. We left the full plates and the empty to-go boxes on the table.

MORE: Etiquette in Question