What A Waste!

Joined Sep 18, 2010
We are very honored to present to you WHAT A WASTE! A student-initiative by four Advertising students of RMIT aiming to reduce food wastage in Melbourne. Food wastage, a common problem with little commitment. Don’t we all agree that some restaurants really serve in portions so massive it could feed a horse? No doubt, it may make our money seem all worthwhile at that point of time but just look at the amount of leftovers on our plates at the end of the meal! All those food will end up in our landfills, polluting our environment with the Methane gas they produce and wasting land space and money. This is disastrous!

We have only just started with this battle so if you have any restaurants that are doing an excellent job at reducing plate waste (or if they are not), do leave us a comment! We will see how we can all learn from these experiences.

Joined Apr 3, 2008
If the food at restaurants is too much for me then I take it home with me and eat as leftovers.  If someone leaves their food on the plate at a restaurant then it's the person's fault, not the restaurant's fault.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
There's a balancing act involved, KK.

Sure, if there's a significant amount of food left over you should take it home for laters. I don't think anyone questions that---although the OP is correct in that many people don't.

The question is: Why was there so much on your plate in the first place? The fact is, restaurants, certainly in America---and, apparently, Down Under as well---put out portions that are way beyond reasonable size.

Just one example: According to USDA, a portion of fish is 3 ounces. Restaurant standards are, supposedly, 5-6 ounces. And yet, time after time, portions of 8-10 ounces are more the norm.

When it comes to beef, forgetaboutit! I haven't seen a reasonable restaurant portion in so long I can't even remember it.

It's gotten to the point where many people I know plan on several meals from a restaurant trip. They'll eat one meal at the restaurant; have a second main meal from what they take home; and, often enough, leftovers still to make a lunch.

Don't get me wrong. I don't blame them for doing that. They are, after all, paying for that food and may as well get the benefit of it. What I'm saying is that we've come to a sorry pass when portions are so large that people can, indeed, plan several meals around a trip to a restaurant.
Joined Oct 9, 2008
While we're on the subject, I occasionally turn over in my head the many, many reasons for this ludicrous expansion of portion sizes. We can all see a bunch of obvious ones, but there's one that rarely gets mentioned: speed of consumption.

I bring this up here because I have never even visited Terra Australis Incognita, in which obviously people must walk on their hands because they're upside-down, so I don't know whether speed-eating is such an issue there as it is here.

When you go to restaurants in the US, whether it's in big urban centers or in small diners, people have a tendency to bolt and go. Home dining, the media tell us, is all bolt and go: zap it in the microwave, bolt it standing up, race back to the TV or computer or whatever. Something like 40% of meals are eaten while driving, if memory serves.

Now if you want to see why this matters, go to the best sushi place you know of, at a somewhat off hour, and go hungry. Bring a friend. Start by ordering a small basic selection of sushi and sashimi, with rice, pickles, and miso soup. Now make a point of taking at least half an hour to eat this small amount of food. From here on, order one order of sushi or sashimi at a time --- not one for each of you, but one order. You may not order another until this one is eaten, and you must discuss, for at least a few minutes, what you have just eaten and what you want to eat next, before you order anything. What'll happen is that your stomachs will react to all that protein, and in an hour you'll be feeling pleasantly full. Now look at what you have actually eaten, and you'll find that you have eaten a lot less than you usually would at a sushi place. How do you usually eat so much? Because (a) you're eating much faster, so you get ahead of your stomach, and (b) you order a whole lot from the outset, so you eat it because it's in front of you.

So, WhatAWaste and other upside-down people, is speed-bolting common Down Under too?
Joined Aug 21, 2009
Chris, you can also go to a place that serves dim sum in the traditional Chinese fashion with the carts that pass your table with tempting dishes.  I took my daughter to the Bright Pearl in Toronto a few years ago on a girls day out and we were there for about an hour and a half.  We tried some of the dishes that came our way, and passed on some others.  At the end we were full but not painfully stuffed to be bursting point and we thoroughly enjoyed what we ate. 

I've found the Cheesecake Factory in the US to be the biggest offender when it comes to too much food in my experience, anyway.  I can barely get through half of a lunch entree... I'd be afraid to try a dinner sized one. 

When people pay for food, there seems to be this feeling that they should get more for their money.  That's all fine and good but it creates alot of waste and alot of overweight people if they actually eat the gargantuan sized portions on their plate. 
Joined May 5, 2010
When I was involved as a Banquet Chef and put out buffets, the client asked for all the leftovers to take home. At first we refused then after thinking about it a while the manager had an idea.

We had a simple disclaimer form they signed to release us from any obligations that may happen from poor handling of the leftovers (like leaving them in a hot car on a hot day, before coming home)

We really did not like having to do this because people are not aware of the dangers of storing the leftovers properly.
Joined Sep 30, 2010
I don't think there is anything wrong with taking home leftovers. I have found it difficult to find a good sized NY Strip at a reasonable price. I enjoy eating and often have leftovers. I don't mind brining the food home to enjoy the next day. I got into a debate with friends the other night at dinner about bringing home leftover dessert. Does anybody else do this? I have done it and do not see any issue with it. My friends said they would never do that. I admit that I have a sweet tooth but is it so bad to take home leftover dessert?
Joined Feb 1, 2007
I don't think anyone considers taking home leftovers to be wrong, beargy, including desserts. The question of the day, however, is why are there so many leftovers to begin with? And that has to do with portion control---or the lack thereof. Here in America we've been trained to expect oversized portions.

I have found it difficult to find a good sized NY Strip at a reasonable price.

You raise two different issues here. First, what do you mean by "good sized?" Enough to have enough left over for another meal? That would be too much, IMO. You're not in a restaurant to stock your pantry (or shouldn't be). That's what the supermarket is for.

"At a reasonable price," is another issue altogether. Depending on the type of restaurant and the ability of the chef, the steak, itself, only represents 20-30% of the total. Well, not even, because you have other things on the plate besides that hunk of meat. The point is, in a well run restuarant, food costs are, at maximum, about 30%. At a restaurant you're also paying the salaries for both foh and boh, for the overheads, for the ambiance, etc. So, if you're really looking for a reasonable price, get your steak at the market and cook it at home.

Consider this, however. It the size of the steak served in the restuarant was enough to leave you satisfied, with only a few scraps left over, you'd be a lot closer to that reasonable price, whatever you consider it to be. If you are served an oversized portion somebody has to pay for it.

My friends said they would never do that.

I don't begin to understand that attitude. Proportionately desserts are the most expensive items on the menu. Why would somebody who is willing to take home leftover main dishes balk at leaving behind the more expensive part of the meal?
Joined Sep 18, 2010
We believe that the responsibility of reducing food wastage does not only lie in the consumers' alone. Restaurant owners and chefs should also play their parts simply because they are the ones who serve the food and they are the ones with the deciding power. Sometimes, restaurants really serve in portions way more than what a normal person can finish. If this is a marketing strategy employed by the restaurants, it should then also be their responsibility to inform the customers of the size and suggest that they share or bring home the leftovers.
Joined Sep 30, 2010
I believe the restaurants should be somewhat responsible but we should also be responsible. Ultimately it is us, as consumers, who are purchasing the food items. We are the ones responsible for our decisions when we order. I admit that I have this issue at times. I tend to eat a lot and often order more than I need. I do think it's a shame and try to be more cognizant of what I am doing.
Joined Sep 5, 2008
If the food at restaurants is too much for me then I take it home with me and eat as leftovers.  If someone leaves their food on the plate at a restaurant then it's the person's fault, not the restaurant's fault.
You don't always go home right after going to a restaurant. We live quite far from the beach, and often we like to spend the whole day at the beach and enjoy a nice lunch in a restaurant by the beach. That means, unfortunately, that if the portions are too large we have to leave everything in the plate. It kills me to answer "no" when the waiter asks if I'd like him to wrap this up for me, but what am I going to do with half a steak and half a piece of fish all day long under a 85F sun?
Last edited:
Joined Feb 1, 2007
One test of portion control: Check the "appetizer" part of the menu. If it actually means "a la carte," as is so often the case, then you know the portions are too big to begin with.
Joined Feb 26, 2007
Whatawaste - Hello from a fellow Melbournian /img/vbsmilies/smilies//smile.gif

I do agree there is often too much food on  a plate  at general eateries.  Especially country pub hotels - 1 plate could feed 3.  But then you go to a really expensive restaurant, and the size of each portion becomes ridiculouly small.  So afterwards you head for the local burger store.  Where to balance it?  I don't know.

But hey...."doggie bags" are no longer allowed by law in this country - isn't it the same elsewhere?  I know, it still happens here, but legally you can't ask for one, so it's either leave it, or pop it in a few napkins in your bag.  Without anyone seeing, Ha!  It's doable.  Trust me.  But you do need to be going straight home to keep it ok.

For myself,  If there is a choice of small serve or large serve (here it is entree = small, main = large), I'll always get an entree.  I do have a good appetite, but once you have bread and a couple of drinks, you're full.  Just my choice and preference.  Desserts have to be pretty special or I just don't bother.

All you can eat places must have so much waste......
Joined Sep 18, 2010
Hi DC Sunshine,

There are no laws that prevent restaurants and cafes from giving customers doggy bags however, food businesses can minimise risks by:
  • Having a procedure in their Food Safety Program for dealing with doggy bags.
  • Having a leaflet or messages on menus explaining the risks of doggy bags to consumers; and
  • Seeking advice from insurers.
Source: http://www.health.vic.gov.au/foodsafety/faq.htm

But yea, like you said, we can all do it sneakily as well :)
Joined Oct 15, 2010
The portions in the US are out of control! The good thing is, taking home leftovers is a norm. Depending on what area I'm in, sometimes leftovers make it home, other times they go to a homeless person. The biggest waste is the bread. It actually cost restaurants a lot of money and so much of it goes to waste. Some of the restaurants in San Francisco have started to only serve bread (even water) by request. I think that is a good start. If bread is leftover at my table, it usually ends up in my doggy bag.
Joined Apr 3, 2008
I do agree that portion sizes are ridiculously big here and I only meant to say that I take things home in order not to waste.  But french fries has a good point that you can't always take your food home.  I am traveling for work at the moment and went to a restaurant last night for a meal which I couldn't finish.  There is no refrigerator in my hotel room so I would have had to leave half of my food on the plate and go.  I know this may sound strange but even if I don't want to take the food home I ask them to pack it off for me and I usually hand it to a less fortunate person on the street or leave it next to a trash can where someone can pick it up.  If you are in a big city this is doable, but I wouldn't leave food next to the bin in the suburbs.

We in America live in a world of Big Gulps, Supersize fries, and other convenience fast food joints that give their food names like "The Terminator" or "The Big Boy" or "The deluxe", all terminology to make us think we're getting more and more and more.  You don't find this in europe where portion sizes are normal.  And what is our fascination with huge sodas???  I had a friend visit from Germany once in NY and we went to restaurant.  He ordered a coca cola and they brought him one of those tall glasses (possibly 20oz) of soda.  He looked at it and said to the waiter "Is this for drinking, or for bathing?"  Seriously, we americans are scary.
Joined Jan 5, 2007
I know that when I have visited both the USA and Australia, the huge portion sizes 'overface' me (as we Scots would say!)  It is not customary in the UK to take home any leftovers. 

Even in some of the more expensive, upmarket Aussie places that I've visited, the steak or fish or seafood portion is HUGE.  My Aussie relatives say that it is because Aussies would feel short changed if they got up from the table without feeling stuffed to the gunwales!   I don't want all that food.  I don't want the chef to serve me all that food. I think it is wasteful in the extreme!
Joined May 22, 2010
I tried this. I ran menus with portions that were sized, in my opinion, properly... more in line with what a meal "should be" according to basic nutritional information and suggestions. I priced at a standard 33.5%

Guests hated it. They all thought they were being ripped off. They comment on puny portions. They said I was ripping them off. No matter that they couldn't finish what they ordered anyways... still not enough food.

i.e. I still have my flourless chocolate torte on my menu. First comment when it hits the table is "is that it?". No one person finishes it. It's always shared. But the complaints continue.

Unless you are catering to a health conscious, waste minded clientele as your sole focus, it's financial suicide. "Mo' is mo' better"... it's the Western Way.

Latest posts

Top Bottom