"Suing"

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I'm not quit sure that this is the right forum for this, but I thought that ya'll might be interested in what I think is the stupidest thing I've heard in quite awhile. If they get away with this, it could eventually affect every caterer, every restaurant, in the country! [email protected]#$%[email protected]*LIEVEABLE

This is part of the article I cut & pasted, but the * censoring is mine.



"The Motley Fool Take on Friday, May 24, 2002
Sun's Sore Spots
This week's sign of the pending apocalypse: After victories against the tobacco companies, emboldened lawyers and activists are now taking aim at companies that sell junk food with hopes of recovering costs of diseases associated with obesity.
According to Salon.com, the real hope is that targeting the companies who provide our delectable treats will force price increases and marketing that will keep us from eating so much.
But the whole idea of "suing our fat as*es off," as Salon puts it, seems awfully Big Brotherish to us. Can you imagine suing McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) or Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM) -- owner of such culprits as Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut -- because you've been packing on the pounds? Is it really the companies' fault that they are fulfilling our demand?
Proponents of these kinds of potential lawsuits also say that consumers are being snookered by those double-cheeseburgers, unwittingly taking in oodles of fat and calories. Could this possibly be
true? Does anyone really walk into a Burger King thinking that a Whopper is a healthy choice?"

Here's the whole article:
http://www.fool.com/news/take/2002/take020524.htm
Is it me? Or is this completely CRAZY? As a caterer, my assistant & I have already had a discussion about the future possibility of the necessity of signs on buffet items such as "PORK SATAY CONTAINS PEANUTS" or "THIS DIP CONTAINS CRAB". Am I going to have to put labels on the creme sauce- "SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING; Consumption by anyone may result in making you fat"?????????
The Saucy Cajun :eek: :crazy: :eek:
ps Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't think that obesity is a problem. But this is legislation through litigation!!! You may have fewer & fewer choices in todays world, but seems to me that one of the most basic rights I have is what to put in my own mouth! Plus, if they're going to basically tell me what I am allowed to eat, don't you think they better be right about what's good for me? Did you know the FDA's food pyramid is the same as the US Agriculture Department suggests to farmers to fatten their pigs?
pss I don't even really LIKE fast food!
 
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Joined Apr 19, 2001
Hi, SC - No, I don't think you're nuts - whoops, I wonder if anyone's allergic to the word!:D

I think the whole thing about society becoming more 'sue happy' is actually just a symptom of people not wanting to take care of themselves; they would rather have someone else tell them it's proper or not. We don't want to take the responsibility for making the choice not to eat junk food, we want it legislated into existence.

It's also a symptom of a powerful lobby - i.e., the cigarette controversy or the right to lifers - attempting to legislate personal freedoms. It's scary - isn't this supposed to be the 'land of the free'?

Where do you stop at legislating what is 'junk food' and what isn't? What is 'good for you' and what's not? Just look at some of the topics here on Cheftalk for some great examples - there was a huge, very animated thread here not long ago about dairy products, and pros and cons. Everyone has their own belief system - as long as one 'faction' doesn't try to enforce their beliefs on another, everyone has the choice to do what they believe in, and think best - for them.

I personally am so tired of people telling how I should think - feel - act - believe in. The good side is that I'm coming of an age when I can pretty much say what I want, and wear my 'purple hat' and not give a d*** what others think!
 
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Joined Nov 29, 2001
There's a distinct difference between suing tobacco companies and suing restaurants or food preparers.

Taken in moderation, fattening food is rewarding, celebration food. I don't think anyone should be prevented from experiencing the endorphins released by chocolate or a well-made creme brulee, for that matter. However, the weakness of people to refrain from making a 3x a day diet of crap food is what presented an opportunist with this gift, this frivolous lawsuit.

Letting people know that there are peanuts in something, or crab, is a necessity. If the food that causes an allergic reaction is not prominently listed, someone could die. That's the reality.

As for the tobacco companies...the use of cigarettes kills human beings. They deserve to be sued. Their free ride has gone on long enough and cost too many people loved ones. There are no inherently "addictive" properties to most foods; the same cannot be said for cigarettes.
 
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I don't know Chiff...someone did a study that said "Chocolate IS addictive". Wonder if they plan to sue the Wedding Cake Designer because they think that the cake started the whole fat thing. :rolleyes: Im sure there will be lots of others out there willing to do studys that show other foods are addictive also. If the public wants to sue...there are many who will be more than glad to "help" them out. There might be some future problems for our industry, unfortunately. :( Just my feelings about the whole deal.
 
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Years ago I worked a second job at a family restaurant. One morning a morbidly obese person came in an sat at a table that faced the kitchen. The waitstaff took the order and dropped it off on the wheel. Extra bacon, crispy potatoes with gravy, extra eggs. I remember cooking up this platter of breakfast and thinking how anyone would order this stuff, cooked extra-greasy. I wanted to go up to them and tell them they were killing themselves and that my conscience would not allow myself to be a part of their bad decision and maybe make them eat a salad or something healthy. No luck. I mentioned my thought to my supervisor and the guy started laughing and told me to get my head out of my ***.
Since then I took another approach. I don't sell junk food. My restaurant does not have a deep fryer. We have no grill. We have no margerine, and only use olive oil, butter, walnut oil or cooking spray. Although I am not vegetarian, I cook and offer daily vegan and no-fat foods along with meats and foods that are high in fat, like whole milk cheeses. Maybe I see things differently. As cooks and chefs, we make things to nourish people and bring them pleasure and satisfaction. What we make goes inside people. To me there is a somewhat of a sacred trust for us in the profession to be aware of what we give to people for their consumption. Perhaps the fast food industry may be suffering an ethical or moral lapse but as far as us independents go, we can choose to make a difference.
 
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Great Advice Peachcreek! :)

I never thought about it that way. Still living off "the customer is always right" rule of thumb, I guess. :blush: I guess we do sorta help the problem along by NOT helping. But mostly it is out of fear of losing business. Right? :confused:

Have we really strayed that far from providing good food and resorted to the slop that some customers want to be fed? Is it really that much of a risk to cook the quality, flavorful and appealing food we would prefer to cook? I know we do care. Right?
 

isa

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It first started with the coffee who was too hot...


If ridiculous suit win big settlement people will continue to bring suit against everyone they can think of.
 
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Without suggesting that litigation is an appropriate solutions, there is a problem. When people buy food to prepare at home, they do have labels to inform them of the contents, fat, salt, etc. When one dines out, there is NO information.

I can't begin to know the solution to this, but from the point of view of the consumer, I would like to see restaurants try to address this problem. Certainly ff chains with their unvarying "menu" could easily post the caloric, fat, and salt content of their foods. Once done, pretty much done forever. But in places that serve real food, change their menus seasonally, monthly, daily, this becomes more of a challenge and a burden, despite programs that calculate such things.

Peachtree shows an unusual sensitivity to this issue and I commend all of you that do so.

How much trouble would it be to give some of this information on your menus? (Not intended as a loaded question, but a simple inquiry.) It would be a significant help to your customers if it could be done, particularly if you get the geriatric crowd. <g>
 
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Joined Nov 29, 2001
I have more of an issue with the allergy disclosures. Posting a description of each dish at a buffet cater is not a lot to ask in order to circumvent tragedy during what is probably supposed to be a celebration. (Not applicable of course in the case of after-funeral gatherings.)

As far as posting caloric values in places where the menu changes seasonally, I think this might be overkill. A person consuming "celebration food" expects to sin. People who care about their weight and health "budget" for such forays into sublime eating. Fat people are going to overeat no matter what the posted numbers are. Just watch any McD's or BK. People know what's in that stuff and continue to eat it regularly. Peachcreek's bacon eater knew exactly what he was doing.

My personal hope is that parents who care about their children read what kind of poison they're pumping into their kids in the interest of "timesaving," and limit the amount of fast food they permit their kids to eat.

We are all responsible for our actions when it comes to eating. Eating is not something unnecessary we can simply "quit" like smoking. We can't sever our relationship with food, it's like trying to drive a car on "e." Posted calorie counts will deter some people from overindulging but let's face it, most of us know that overeating and regularly consuming high fat food is bad. As long as a dish is not portrayed as "low fat" while it's actually loaded, we're on our own.
 
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Joined Feb 6, 2002
I have a question for everyone.

If we start posting nutritional information or ingredients in the meals we are serving, where do we put the info? Do we put it under the description? Do we put a disclaimer at the bottom of the page saying "Nutritional information and ingredients list for all meals will be provided by inquiry. Please consult your server."?

If we do this kind of extra work with the menu, I believe we will have to keep it separate from the menu. All the ingredients in some dishes are too numerous to list and most people will be put off by all that info. If you cost out your recipes and keep them in a computer file all the waiter has to do is say to the GM that the customer made an inquiry on this and could he get the info.

But it is still a loss of profit, isn't it? The cost of paper and toner to print out this info. What if the customer wants info on a few dishes? How is getting the info to the customer gonna work? Are you gonna have your servers walking around with PDAs that are hotlinked to your main computer? That's the easiest way to go. Spend once and don't spend again. Unfortunately there will be lots of employee training involved and there really aren't a lot of computer savvy people running around. And the loss factor. You'd also have to do an inventory every time there is a shift change to make sure your PDAs aren't walking out the door. ACK! Too much trouble!

Next thing you know the FDA will create a special labeling law that's mandatory for restaurants. :eek:

I think offering the information is a good idea if we wanna cover our a**** but how exactly would you make this work? :confused:
 
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Joined Mar 3, 2002
Chiffonade, Re allergies: menus with detailed descriptions would be nice, but remember that would entail mentioning specifically wheat, peanut oil, msg, and a host of other things that we all regard as staples. The other problem is that there is no way of anticipating what people might be allergic to as, for as far as I can tell, for every food, there's someone who's allergic. And here the individual can ask about whether that substance is in the dish. The old individual responsibility in action.

Re info on calories, fat, salt, etc.: This is a complex issue. Take fast food, for example. Their menus are quite stable, they're computerized, standardized to the fraction of an ounce. It would not take a great deal of effort for them to post nutritional info. But if they did some people might pause at just how much fat and salt are in their product. I recall seeing a "news" segment on the calories, etc., in popular ff takeout. One quick meal and you've used up most of your daily calories!

I agree that people "should" take responsibility, but there are many elements to that. Keep in mind about 25% of Americans are illiterate (notice how they ALWAYS have pictures on menus at ff, many diners, etc. -yes, yes, they couldn't read the posting :) ). Keep in mind that many schools now contract out their cafeterias to ff chains that are feeding children their lunches. Keep in mind that many of the people who are uninformed about nutrition are precisely the ones barely able to keep their boat afloat, with not enough time or money to get through their day. How reasonable is it to expect people in these groups to be ABLE to take responsibility for researching how many calories are in a big Mac?

There's a vast pool out there of people who are truly uninformed about what's in the food they eat, unaware a "serving" of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, etc., unaware of different kinds of fat, etc. And some are not capable of doing the research required to find out, not just unwilling.

You're entirely right that the obese person ordering multiples of burgers and bacon, etc., in a general sense knows what s/he is doing, but still may not know (or, I concede, want to know) just how fattening that food is. Anyone who has dieted knows how much energy it takes to figure out the calories, fat, salt, or whatever it is they're measure. But at the same time there is individual responsibility, there is also "corporate" and societal responsibility to the young and the weak among us. There's no real reason for ff not posting nutritional information EXCEPT that it might deter some people from eating it or as much of it.

As I said before, other, smaller restaurants, caterers, etc. are a more difficult issue to resolve. The burden on them would in many cases be greater. I would be interested in hearing from some professionals as to how difficult it would be to give people a sense of the calories, fat, salt, a dish contains.
 
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Joined Jun 1, 2001
I know I've said this before, but I am right with alexia on this. Just because I'm eating out doesn't mean I'm "celebrating" and ready to blow my entire calorie and fat budget for the week. It may mean:

I'm too busy/tired to cook, and don't happen to have any frozen leftovers at the moment. I don't like fast food, or cheap'n'nasty food, so if I'm not cooking, I'm at least going to spend my hard-earned money on something decent.

I'm going out because I have to: business obligation, family thing I can't avoid, whatever.

Even if I AM celebrating, I'd like to know whether I can "afford" to celebrate with a piece of cake AND a small appetiser, or whether I need to choose between cake-and-dry-salad or appetiser-salad-and-coffee.

And, apparently, some incredible number of people (more than half, I think) eats out at least three or four times a week.

That's not celebrating, that's lifestyle. If they can get nutrition facts from the grocery store, they should be able to get it from the restaurant.

Just as waiters seem to have adjusted just fine to those fancy new touch-screen billing things that automatically create the customer's bill and do accounting for the kitchen staff, I think it's only a matter of time before chefs and kitchen staff are going to have to move into the twenty-first century, and start providing at least the basic information about the food they're selling. It, honestly, shouldn't be that hard to enter each ingredient used as one uses it for the specials, and to have a database of standard preparations. Many nicer places have menus printed off a computer daily or monthly anyway, and basic information from the database could be added to that, or available from the counter on request.

This is important not just for the weight-maintaining (whose concerns, I keep sensing from many on this board, are contemptible in anyone who really likes food), but also for people like my brother, a severe diabetic who must count carbohydrates, and those like my friend who CAN'T -- not won't, but can't -- have large amounts of fat because of a hereditary heart problem.

Not to mention, but yes, it WOULD probably open the eyes of those who have no idea what a serving size is, or how many calories are in a typical chunk of something. I've shown those "serving size" magazine articles to many friends who've asked, and their reactions -- particularly to the inevitable "typical plate of Fettucine Alfredo" and "typical bagel" have always been, "Not really? Oh my GOD!"
 
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Joined Feb 6, 2002
That means we'd have to go all electronic. The only way that would work is to input it on a computer and have the servers carry PDAs that are hot synced to it. All information for all dishes (nutritional info, total calories, sodium and dietary fiber etc.) would be accessible with the click of a button. I think you can eliminate the excessive employee training by getting a setup where you just use something like MasterCook??, do a recipe search and click the button that gives the nutritional info. Click, click, click. Shouldn't be that hard to teach! Hopefully. :rolleyes:

No endless printing and the server can stand there and answer the customer's questions in less than a minute. BUT! But you will have to be able to trust your servers if you are buying the equipment because PDAs are expensive and can suddenly start "walking" off your property.

That's the only way I can see this working. I design and print all our menus. Although we are a small restaurant (diner) it would be easy to adapt. Any other restaurant that doesn't have a computer and doesn't do recipe costing etc. is gonna need a major overhaul to get up to date. So to speak.

Anyone have any other suggestions than the one Ive mentioned?
 
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Joined Nov 29, 2001
Originally posted by alexia
Re allergies: menus with detailed descriptions would be nice, but remember that would entail mentioning specifically wheat, peanut oil, msg, and a host of other things that we all regard as staples.

I understand about staples, etc., however, if a dish has peanuts in it and they are not listed in the description, there could be trouble. As far as flour, etc., I think people know bread has flour in it, unless it's spelt. First line of defense in an allergy situation is definitely the diner requesting specific information. The waitperson should be able to answer any question about any dish. How about a line on a menu that says, "If any of our diners have food sensitivies, do not hesitate to ask our waitstaff questions about any dish on our menu."


Re info on calories, fat, salt, etc.: This is a complex issue. Take fast food, for example. Their menus are quite stable, they're computerized, standardized to the fraction of an ounce. It would not take a great deal of effort for them to post nutritional info. But if they did some people might pause at just how much fat and salt are in their product.

This would be the desired end result. Showing a tantalizing burger on television without disclosing the actual fat information makes it look more appealing than it should. (They never look like that anyway!) An occasional quick trip for ff won't kill anyone but making it a 5 day a week meal is deadly.


I agree that people "should" take responsibility... many schools now contract out their cafeterias to ff chains that are feeding children their lunches. Keep in mind that many of the people who are uninformed about nutrition are precisely the ones barely able to keep their boat afloat, with not enough time or money to get through their day. How reasonable is it to expect people in these groups to be ABLE to take responsibility for researching how many calories are in a big Mac?

Contracting a fast food chain to sell its slop to school cafeterias should be punishable by death. Do you realize the repercussions of teaching kids to eat this stuff in school??? I know it happens though, and if this information was published to parents, maybe they'd take enough of an interest to pressure schools not to do these fast food contracts. Regarding people who are having trouble keeping the boat afloat - do you realize that money spent on a fast food meal for one person could sometimes feed a family of 2 or 3 if used at the supermarket to purchase raw food?? It's fast food, not cheap food. Add that up for a family's night out at McD's and you can see how that money can be better spent.


There's a vast pool out there of people who are truly uninformed about what's in the food they eat, unaware a "serving" of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, etc., unaware of different kinds of fat, etc. And some are not capable of doing the research required to find out, not just unwilling.

I'm hoping that publishing nutritional info will combat that "uninformed" state. At least they'd know what they were doing and could make an informed choice. Not knowing what a serving size is stems from the "get more for less" mentality. A heaping plate of food could contain enough mass (and calories) to represent 2-3 days' worth of food. But who do you know who would go to a restaurant that only provided the "healthy" amount of food vs. a truckload?


...there is also "corporate" and societal responsibility to the young and the weak among us. There's no real reason for ff not posting nutritional information EXCEPT that it might deter some people from eating it or as much of it.

This is the fight waged by people vs. tobacco companies for years. Until we start electing people to office who believe that health is more important than corporate profits, we're liable to have to continue fighting for this type of information to be disclosed.
 
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Joined Feb 6, 2002
Speaking of the get more for less mentality.....its being enforced by advertising. The restaurant contracts an advertising agency to "sell" their restaurant and that agency will do and say anything along the borderline of the law to sell that client.

For example the ads that target kids...."Buy this burger and get this toy. Youll be the envy of your friends" My daughter always wanted to go to McDs when we drove by. I asked her what she wanted to eat and she said "TOY!" Today I saw an add for Popeyes that said "Buy a bucket of chicken and get another at half price!" The old SAVE MONEY tactic. We restaurants are not solely responsible for making people fat if whomever wants to sue us. They should start with the ad agencies. Last night I saw an infomercial recruiting for the Dr. Atkins diet. The rhetoric is very well put together I might add...they sound so reasonable. They are very good at using the facts and twisting it to their point of view. "Fat people's bodies do not burn food the same way skinny peoples bodies do."

Everything would have to change in order to educate the public. That's just the big picture. I agree with you on adding that disclaimer at the bottom of the menu pages. That's how we could do our part in stopping this Fat Epidemic.

PS

Can't the local hospitals start offering seminars on nutrition etc.?? Most people don't believe me when I say something about the food they are eating but show them an article from one of my medical journals and BAM! They suddenly get an epiphany. :rolleyes:
 
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Me. And my husband. (And my sister.) It would be such a relief to stop having to either order only from the "appetiser" section, or to spend twenty minutes just arguing about what entree we would BOTH like to eat, so that we can share it.

I hate being confronted with a disgusting huge heap of food. No matter how good it is, it takes away my appetite to be served with something which, at home, would be what I'd make for FOUR people. Nor do I usually take leftovers home; most restaurant food isn't the sort of thing I'd eat every day, plus if I'm not going directly home after eating (which I very often am not), it isn't safe left in a car or whatever.
 
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Joined Apr 1, 2002
It seems that maybe there is somewhat of a solution for restaurants, but I'm a CATERER!. In LOUISIANA, "where creme & butter are still good for you"! My take on Peachtree's concept of "don't be a part of the problem" is somewhat different. My main clients are brides. They don't ask for junk food. But they are NOT worrying about fat. So if they order turkey, I buy minimum processed & cook it myself. But then again, they may order ham. Either way,I feel my responsiblity is to give them the freshest, least processed food I can. But when someone wants a shrimp alfredo with double creme, I can't suggest a nice organic salad instead! It's their WEDDING! No one is worrying about if what they eat is healty at their own wedding! And if I don't give them what they want, someone else will. And here's the other part of the problem. The bride, or hostees, is ordering for EVERYONE. I ALWAYS ask if there will be any guests that are vegetarian. (I had a groom once that wanted about 12 different dishes, 10 of which had meat in one way or another. When I asked him if there were any vegetarians, he said yes, the BRIDE!)The client orders what they want to eat & everyone else either eats it or not. And as far as the allergies,or even the fat or salt for people with high blood pressure, I can ask the bride if she is aware any guests with these problems, but she hasn't even met everyone invited to her wedding. How can she know their medical histories? And there is NO WAY a bride wants little cards with the info about ingredients or fat in front of every silver chaffer or tray! It's like sneeze guards. Yes they're manditory, but you NEVER see one on a CATERED buffet. So the only thing I can really do is ask the client, make sure my insurance is up to date, and assume that the guest will take the responsiblity to ASK if they have a problem. I have also instructed my entire staff, that even if they helped cook the particular dish, DO NOT just tell the guest what is in it. ASK ME FIRST!!! Maybe the marinate that they just poured in a bowl, that was made the day before when they weren't there, has peanut oil in it. And the idea of doing a list of ingredients is only some work. But the idea of fat grams becomes impossible almost! We specialize in custom weddings. There are dishes that we have done that we never did before, and will never do again. You can bring us Great-Aunt Matilda's recipe for goulash & we will produce it. I would have to hire someone to do nothing but the math! And I'm sorry if this offends anyone, but I believe everyone should make their own choices and be responsible for them! This includes even whether you choose to smoke or not. If I decide to go play on the interstate, and I have been told that this is dangerous, it is a direct result of my own choice if I get run over! The car driver, the interstate builders, nor the department that is responsible for roads is to blame. My life, my choice. It would be different if your mother never told you not to play in the street & they were advertizing that the interstate is a great place to spend your vacation! LOL Hoever, if there is no info on playing on interstates, either pro or con, I'm going to look at the situation, look back on what I've already been taught, such as cars hit people, some food contains peanut oil, or it's bad for you to smoke. If I need more info I'll ASK. Then,I'll make up my own mind, and yes Marmalady wear my "purple hat", and be responsible for my decision. And as far as educating the public...sorry, not my job. There is an ocean of info out there for the people that are interested. Chiffonade is totally correct. Peachtree's bacon eater knew exactly what he was doing. His life, his choice. But I don't think he has the right to yell foul when he gets health problems due to his own decisions! I try to give people what they want in the healthest way I can. But saying it is my job to educate them, when they already know this info and just don't want to listen, is rather like saying the car salesman should teach you how to drive, and be responsible if you have an accident. But then, of course, if you played on the interstate and got hit,you could also sue the car salesman!!LOL
The Saucy Cajun
ps Shawtycat, the Atkins diet does work! My friend & I went on "Protein Power", which is a spinoff and together lost over 125 lbs. I told her I was going to get her a T-shirt that read "Ask me how I lost over 75 lbs. eating pork skins!!!" We ate things like shrimp alfredo , just subed the pasta with zuc. We had our med tests done regularly. The nurses said that "bacon must have never pasted those lips"....we ate it every morning! With eggs & cheese!
pss And CompassRose,as far as smaller portions, it would never work. First of all, most people CHOOSE to eat that much. Plus, the other people would not feel like they got their money's worth. They would all complain & then go to another restaurant. Even if you cut the price somewhat. Let's say you sell 6 oz. of pasta alfredo for $20. There's no way you could sell 3 oz. for $10. Every part of your overhead would basically remain the same except food costs - your rent, insurance, advertizing, etc. would all remain the same. This is something "civilians" don't realize. They think they're just "buying food". So they'd never go for half the food for 3/4 of the price. Plus, most people do get a "doggie bag".
 
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Joined Nov 29, 2001
Caje...you bring up some good points about wedding food, etc. but people are expecting to indulge when they attend such an affair! As far as listing allergy-prone ingredients...It's your insurance and the bride & groom's. In a place where a burglar can sue a potential victim if he or she gets hurt in the act, who wants to flirt with financial disaster?? (Sneeze guards notwithstanding.)

Re: Atkins, check the nutritional folder. Atkins himself finally had a heart attack and I don't know a single doctor (I mean real doctors) who endorse this fad diet. You can't live that way - that's the true test of a fad diet. Atkins will eventually go the way of the cabbage soup diet, especially after his little romp through the emergency room.
 

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