Hold The Lettuce: A Thought For Food
As I pushed the cardboard tomato aside I shoulder-squirmed to myself: “Icky.” And that quarter-inch-thick Vidalia onion (take note, close-talkers): “Do I intend on talking to anyone for the next 8 hours?” Iceberg leaf; well, I don’t do iceberg.
The point? I blew it. I didn’t tell the server (nor did he ask) to hold the “OLT.” I just committed vegetable murder at the expense of cross-country fare masquerading as local.
I beg of you. Make a simple effort to ask your server to hold anything you won’t eat. Take a look at the plates headed back to the kitchen the next time you wolf down that monster burger at your favorite meat joint.
Let’s do the math. Let x = cardboard, y = bad breath, z = potato sticks. 2x + 1y + 40z - 1x - 1y - 20z.
In this example I ate one tomato slice, no onion, and half of my fries; basically about half of the extras. The balance of the food became waste.
True story: I worked at an airline ticket counter and would play games with the customers. Once I was making up fun facts and told a businessman that 40 percent of condiments at fast food restaurants were thrown away. He chuckled, “It’s more like 60 percent. I sell that stuff.” Enough said.
It’s possible to make a huge change here. There’s every reason to believe that a restaurant could see real results in their bottom line without losing customers. Imagine 2/5 fewer icky-tomato trucks on the road from Texas to North Carolina (yes, local can mean tomatoes from Texas), hauling food destined for the dumpster.
And to you, restaurateur: It’s all in the delivery. “Mr./Miss Conscientious Customer, would you like lettuce, tomato or onion with your meal?” Poll your servers to get their candid responses; you can thank me later. If you are afraid your plates won’t look fancy, be creative. Tilt the bun off the burger or draw a hashtag with ketchup. Even better, put a pre-printed note on the check that acknowledges the reduction of food waste. Get out front. Be “that place.” Create a buzz while boosting your margins.
Your customer is kind of already asking for it. Please, I can’t eat that many fries – but you know I will try!
Timothy Mikkelsen is a food-eating humorist, actor, and Co-Founder of MikWright Greeting Cards.