‘There’s always the children’s menu if you want a smaller portion,’ the waitress said, directing me to the short 5 item menu attached at the back of the main menu.
‘That’s great if you fancy chicken nuggets and chips, sausages (with chips), or a burger with (you’ve guessed it) chips, or a half portion of the day’s roast dinner. What if I want to order a half portion of your signature pasta?’ I asked.
‘Oh the chef only cooks full portions.’
This response from a restaurant in Dublin doesn’t surprise me but does disappoint me. I love dining out and the occasional take away, but I love ‘adult’ food, not infantilised preformed breaded chicken which has been baked or deep-fried.
I don’t mind paying full whack for a half portion of decent food. If I’m charged the full price for a half portion I’m relatively okay with that providing we agree the price in advance. Ingredients are just a small element of the cost of food in Irish restaurants. Other items which are factored into the cost of the meal you eventually eat are tax, staff, light/heat, rent/mortgage, cleaning, and the list goes on. Therefore, I recognise that if I order a half portion, that the cost to the restaurant is likely to be the same, or only slightly lower, than the cost of a full size portion.
I detest food waste. I don’t like leaving half the food on my plate to go into the bin; there’s a cost associated with waste disposal and purchasing the ingredients that have been cooked only to remain uneaten. As a consumer I’m part of the problem. If I accept the standard portion size, even if I’m never going to eat it all, then I’m contributing to food waste.
Let’s accept that some meals are impossible to offer at a half portion size (8oz steak howaya) but there are just as many that can. Half a portion of chips or potatoes to the side of your meal; half a portion of pasta, half a portion of chicken wings, the list goes on.
This week I asked a local takeaway for a half portion. I was refused because, they said, that their take away boxes only come in certain sizes. I offered to pay full price for half the size and they were then happy to oblige. Except when I got home and opened the regular sized container I found they had jammed it with a full-sized portion.
Change needs to happen, not only to reduce food waste, but also to limit the amount of hidden calories that people are eating when they order out. There’s the Irish heritage guilt of ‘starving children in Africa’ which for years ensured that we cleared our plates for fear that we would appear ungrateful. I’m not being ungrateful in the slightest, I’d just like to make the decisions about the quantity of food prepared for me that goes to waste…
What do you think? I know that there are a number of outstanding restaurants who DO offer half-size portions to diners no matter what their age (!) and if you know of them I’d be delighted to hear more so please share!