I’m back with the summer etiquette series and today I’m tackling a situation I’ve run into many time over my years in the hospitality industry; is it okay to ask for leftovers at a cookout?
As a hospitality management major I started my hospitality career as a server for banquets before becoming a catering assistant, a catering manager at a college and eventually owning my own catering business. I cannot count the number of times a guest has come to me and asked, “can I take a plate to go?” In the beginning it was the little old ladies who dared to even bring their own aluminum foil but then it became just about any guest who enjoyed the meal or didn’t want to make lunch the next day.
So is it okay to ask for or expect leftovers when attending an event? You should follow the lead of the host or hostess. If the hostess offers leftovers then by all means, take advantage of the offer if you’d like. If there is no offer, consider that there could be a number of reasons why one wasn’t extended. You should not attend a party with the expectation of taking home tomorrow’s lunch. I’ve also seen guest ask to take plates home for relatives who didn’t attend and this is not okay especially if the relative was invited and didn’t attend. It is not the hostess’ job to feed them.
As a hostess I’m always obliged to give a guest a to-go if they ask since it’s my job is to be gracious and accommodating whenever possible. However, there have been times when I did that at the detriment of my plans for the leftovers. If you are not inclined to be overly gracious as a host, it is perfectly okay to thank the guest for their compliment and politely decline the request because you already have plans for the food.
The goal is considering the feelings of others. In most cases the host would LOVE to unload extra food so they don’t have to store them or eventually throw them away. BUT, if they don’t offer, do your best not to ask and put them in an uncomfortable situation and for goodness sake, please don’t ever attend a dinner with your aluminum foil and bowls in tow!