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Is it inconsiderate/impolite to bring a meal from home into a resturant/cafe that you cook and prepare food for?
September 16, 2007 3:49 PM   Subscribe

Is it inconsiderate/impolite to bring a meal from home into a resturant/cafe that you cook and prepare food for?

My girlfriend and I live in a small town and she has been working at a struggling caféin town. The café menu has drinks, but also includes a versatile food menu including items such as panini, pizza, soup and pastries/baked goods. We both know the owner on a first-name basis, and my girlfriend receives a discount on all food she prepares. As she is an excellent cook, she often talks with the owner (who also cooks) about the kinds of recipes she's planning to try at home. The owner has mentioned a few of these times that my girlfriend should simply make the recipe at the café but has been unclear about the terms (i.e. money). My girlfriend would like to prepare food at home and bring it into work, but she's worried about offending her boss. Further, we both avoid bringing outside food into the place, even if it's something the café doesn't offer (ex. ice cream).

What kind of etiquette should be followed concerning this? Is it okay for my girlfriend to bring in food from home in order to save time and money, or would it be disrespectful?
posted by monkeyagent to Human Relations (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
If I were the owner I might be offended if someone took a table to eat their own food. Is there a bench outside that she can sit at to eat her lunch?
posted by parallax7d at 3:54 PM on September 16, 2007


next time he brings it up, she should just ask.

he: hey, those zucchini muffins sound delicious. we should serve that.

she: if you want me to make some, i can give you a list of ingredients to order. i could come in a little early so i can get it in the over before the lunch rush.

if he suggests making it at home, she could say: okay, let me run the numbers and work out a unit price for you for you. what would you think of charging per muffin?

she should expect to get paid for her work--there's nothing rude about making that assumption.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:01 PM on September 16, 2007


oh, i totally misread that question. i am a dork.

if it's a casual place, she ought to be able to bring in her own food to eat in the break room, especially if it's something the place doesn't normally serve.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:02 PM on September 16, 2007


You do mean she prepares it at home for her to eat? Or for the customers to eat?
posted by ALongDecember at 4:03 PM on September 16, 2007


I'm kind of confused. Is she talking about bringing food from home to eat for lunch? If so, I don't see a problem. Just eat it in the back room away from the customers.
posted by jmd82 at 4:33 PM on September 16, 2007


It sounds like you're asking if, as an employee, she can bring a sack lunch instead of eating off the menu (and for a discount, not FREE??). I worked at a hotel where we could eat for free at the restaurant and I still brought my lunch! It was much healthier.
posted by peep at 4:33 PM on September 16, 2007


Is it okay for my girlfriend to bring in food from home in order to save time and money, or would it be disrespectful?

If I understand the question correctly, I'm pretty sure it's illegal to bring food from home to work. Food that's sold in the shop must be prepared in a city/county approved kitchen by the health inspector. You can't sell food that's been prepared at home at this shop (unless your kitchen has been approved as well).

Again, sorry if I misunderstood here. The question is kinda vague.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 4:33 PM on September 16, 2007


Yeah, I think i definitely misunderstood. Sorry again.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 4:34 PM on September 16, 2007


IMO, if she has a lunch break, she should leave and eat it somewhere else. But really, she should just ask around and see what the other staff do.

The way I see it, if she's on a break, she's not in employee mode. Does the cafe allow customers to bring in outside food? Doubtful.
posted by Reggie Digest at 4:36 PM on September 16, 2007


My state does not allow customers to bring in outside food or drink with the exception of baby bottle of milk, baby food, etc. If you bring your own lunch in as an employee you cannot consume it in the public dining area.
posted by JayRwv at 4:45 PM on September 16, 2007


If you are talking about her bringing food in to eat as her meal for the shift, every server I know does it from time to time if for no other reason than they have had everything on the menu many times and are ready for a change. I have even gone out to get for friends of mine while they were working in a restaurant on occasion. Eating it away from the customers is pretty standard, though.
posted by TedW at 4:51 PM on September 16, 2007


Could you please clarify the question? Because it's really hard for people to offer constructive advice when they don't know what the hell's going on.

Are you talking about her bringing her own lunch to eat in a break room? I can't see how that would be a problem. Are you talking about her sitting at a table with other diners and pulling food out of a brown bag? Problem.
posted by languagehat at 5:08 PM on September 16, 2007


I took the question the way SeizeTheDay interpreted it, and agree with his/her analysis.

If the question is meant to address bringing lunch from home for herself only to eat at work, rather than paying for a meal, assuming she's not using a guest table, I don't think that's bad etiquitte.
posted by bunnycup at 5:09 PM on September 16, 2007


It's in extremely poor taste to bring outside food into a restaurant to consume in the public dining area. However, employees can eat whatever they want during their break, even if it is in the public dining area.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:14 PM on September 16, 2007


a) If she's talking about it bringing ingredients from home to make her own lunch, a health inspector would likely have a hissy fit about the possibility of contamination. They can't inspect her home to ensure she's keeping stuff properly handled, and they can't guarantee none of it is getting into the restaurant's food supply. (Bringing tupperware full of already prepared food is different, though a jerk of an inspector might still have some issues if you're using the restaurant's microwave for reheating.)

b) If she's talking about preparing food at home for the restaurant to sell, a health inspector would likely have a hissy fit about food from a unlicensed facility.

c) If she's talking about working with the cafe owner on menu and recipe development for the business, that'd be cool, though I'm not sure she can anticipate getting paid much for the time.

d) If she's talking about using the cafe's ingredients to prepare her own lunch of non-menu items, the difficulty will be what the cafe owner will charge her, since apparently the cafe owner is charging for staff who eat while they're on shift. Of course, cafe owners who charge their staff for what they eat while on shift are kinda crappy cafe owners to work for anyway.

In any of these cases, if she's consuming off-menu items, she should do it away from the public dining area. People don't like seeing food that looks better than what they're eating that they can't order.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:32 PM on September 16, 2007


If she is asking whether she can bring in her personal lunch as opposed to being made to eat from the menu, the answer is an equivocal yes. The owner would be incorrect to assume that she has the money (regardless of pay) to purchase food at the cafe. Additionally, she may just want different food, and that is reasonable as well.
posted by ellF at 6:14 PM on September 16, 2007


So, an UNequivocal yes?
posted by bunnycup at 6:28 PM on September 16, 2007


In some places (DC for instance) bringing outside food into a restaurant and eating it there is a health code violation. I'm judging this by the big health code poster in my office's cafeteria, which is why my office has to have a completely separate dining area detached from the cafe so employees who want to bring lunch can go somewhere.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:57 AM on September 17, 2007


Paging monkeyagent.... people still don't know what your question is.
posted by ALongDecember at 8:20 AM on September 17, 2007


Yeah, ditto. monkeyagent, what the heck are you asking here?
posted by mediareport at 8:27 AM on September 17, 2007


Sorry, I posted last night and didn't get to check until just now. My girlfriend is not selling the food she is making. It is solely for her use only. However, her boss (a female friend) has implied that she use ingredients at the shop to make the lunch she would like. The problem is that the terms of doing so are somewhat unclear. My girlfriend would rather make her food at home, but her boss can be kind of touchy and she worries about ignoring her boss's recommendation. Also, she isn't sure whether the recommendation was made with the understanding that she (my girlfriend) would pay for the ingredients or not.
posted by monkeyagent at 10:43 AM on September 17, 2007


Also:

The business is less a restaurant, and more a cafe. It sits about 30 people at most. It is rarely that full and many times is even empty. The seating area for customers is a single room (remember: “small town”).

My girlfriend doesn't have an established time for a break. Business is usually so slow she can eat whenever she wants. I'm sure if business picked up this would change, but for the time being, it is unnecessary. Also, many times she cannot leave the cafe because she's the only one working/running the place.

There's no real break area. Other than the kitchen, the only employees-only area is a small alcove adjacent to the counter, but it's not very well shielded from the rest of the cafe.

Her boss is a really sweet woman who insists upon things like my girlfriend's employee discount (we were both regular customers before she got the job), trying recommendations for recipes and occasionally sending my girlfriend home with desert leftovers (no charge). However, she (girlfriend's boss) is sometimes offended by (what we consider) strange things, such as needing time off due to things like death in the family.
posted by monkeyagent at 10:58 AM on September 17, 2007


The problem is that the terms of doing so are somewhat unclear.

And the only way the terms are going to be clarified is for your girlfriend to ask her boss. Why is this a problem?
posted by languagehat at 11:41 AM on September 17, 2007


Yeah, I think she's going to have to ask her boss: "Can I bring a lunch to work?" Without asking, you can't know whether the boss was being nice saying "sure, use our ingredients if you like, but if not go ahead and brownbag it." or "you must make the lunch here. you'll pay for the ingredients."
posted by ALongDecember at 2:51 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


her boss (a female friend) has implied that she use ingredients at the shop to make the lunch she would like

I can't believe she means to make that a *requirement* rather than an invitation. That would be insane. But yeah, she has to ask if her boss is insane or not.
posted by mediareport at 3:44 PM on September 17, 2007


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