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Welcome to WFAEats — a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and interesting in the Charlotte food scene. We want to share stories, recipes and culinary escapades and hear about yours!

Hold The Lettuce: A Thought For Food

Burger plate with fries.

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.