Would You Take a Homemade Sandwich to a Restaurant?

May 26, 2009 at 10:30 PM 18 comments

So here’s a frugal question… Someone I know, (I swear this story is not about me), has been brown bagging lunches in an effort to save money and eat a more balanced diet. One afternoon a bunch of coworkers asked if she’d like to go out to lunch with them. She considered the offer, but didn’t really want to waste a perfectly good sandwich.

She knew the lunch she packed was healthier and cheaper than one she would buy, but she didn’t want to eat alone while all her other coworkers went out together. After contemplating the options she decided to head out for lunch with her coworkers, but decided to bring her sandwich along for the ride.

When she got to the restaurant three of her coworkers purchased meals, while she purchased only a drink and chips. The four of them sat outside of the restaurant and ate their lunches at a picnic table.

After the incident a couple of coworkers commented that they would not have been comfortable taking homemade sandwiches to an establishment and one woman said she thought it was ‘wrong to bring your own food.’

So here’s my question… Do you think it is wrong to bring a homemade sandwich to a restaurant? The woman reasoned that she did purchase chips and a drink so she did not freeload on the restaurant and because her friends were eating at the same table she did not unnecessarily take up a seat. What do you think?

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18 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Her Royal Highness  |  May 26, 2009 at 11:03 PM

    Honestly, I see no reason not to. When I go drink coffee at my local Tully’s, I bring my own bagel or sandwich.

    I purchased their overpriced coffee, sat at their table and drank it, afterall; it’s not like I didn’t purchase something at their establishment that would entitle me to a table.

  • 2. tammy brackett  |  May 27, 2009 at 12:15 AM

    good for this person combining friendliness in going out with her friends and frugality in only ordered chips and a drink.
    I think she should be commended

  • 3. Amanda  |  May 27, 2009 at 1:00 AM

    It really depends on a whole host of factors. The fact that they were outside on a picnic table definitely makes it more acceptable, as does the fact that she bought chips and a drink too. If they were inside and she didn’t buy anything, that would be a bit iffy.

  • 4. bluntmoney  |  May 27, 2009 at 1:53 AM

    Sure, I would do it, especially in the situation you described.

  • 5. Heather  |  May 27, 2009 at 12:31 PM

    I have gone out to lunch with friends when they wanted to eat somewhere where I didn’t like the food. I went next door and purchased from a different restaurant and then brought it to eat with my friends at the restaurant they selected. Since I didn’t have a problem with this, you can imagine I don’t have a problem with bringing a sandwich. I have also brought juice boxes for my son before to restaurants when I know the selection is limited to mostly soft drinks. I apparently have NO SHAME at all.

  • 6. Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife  |  May 27, 2009 at 1:10 PM

    In those particular circumstances, I can’t find any fault with brown bagging a lunch. In either case, the table would have been occupied by three people already. Because she went along, the restaurant made a small additional sale on chips and a drink. That’s a sale they wouldn’t have made otherwise. I don’t know that I would feel entirely comfortable doing it, but I think good for her for doing it.

    One of my favorite breakfast places, back when I ate out a lot, was right next to a very popular coffee shop, and the restaurant often had long waits for tables. They had no issue whatsoever with people bringing coffees in when they finally got a table. That always seemed like the sensible approach to me. Why antagonize paying customers if they get a drink while waiting for space in your place?

  • 7. HS @ Our Debt Blog  |  May 27, 2009 at 4:47 PM

    Yes that’s wrong, you do not bring food to a restaurant, I hate frugal people!!

  • 8. Anonymous  |  May 27, 2009 at 8:04 PM

    A contrary opinion, here… I know she did make a purchase from the restaurant and occupied a seat at her friends’ table (although the friends might have been asked to share that seat with another solo restaurant diner…)


    I think it’s a bit much to bring your own food to a restaurant. Especially at a busy lunchtime, the restaurant is “selling” those seats to people who purchase their meal from the restaurant.

    I understand she didn’t want to waste her sandwich. Why not leave it in the work fridge and have it tomorrow?


  • 9. Meridee  |  May 29, 2009 at 12:05 AM

    It is against health department laws in our state. You cannot bring outside food into a restaurant. Common sense needs to be in place though – as in baby food.

  • 10. hustler  |  May 29, 2009 at 3:49 AM

    I used to be a waitress and people do this fairly often. Well, often enough. None of the staff or management seemed to have a problem or really even notice this. Especially when they are paying customers who buy drinks and are dining with several other people who are paying customers. If someone came in with a group and purchased nothing, just was there for the company, no one would say that was wrong.

  • 11. Anonymous  |  May 29, 2009 at 5:47 AM

    This was totally fine! I would bring my sandwich and maybe get a drink only. She was good to go with her friends. Anyone who would put someone down for following a dietary choice that was important to them…well they are not a true friend

  • 12. Mrs. Money  |  May 31, 2009 at 9:13 PM

    I think it’s fine. She bought chips and a drink. What if that was all she was going to eat?

  • 13. Anonymous  |  June 1, 2009 at 2:25 PM

    Recently, we went to Red Lobster with a group. 2 of the children have allergy issues and ended up just eating french fries. The manager came over to ask us how everything was. The mother mentioned that she had tried and failed to locate the allergy information online and asked the waitress when she came in (and was given a weird answer). The manager told us that the mother could have brought along McDonald’s for the kids. People do it often, and they have no problem with it. I would have never considered that, but I suspect their policy is that happy kids make happy parents.

    I also worked at a sandwich shop where a group came in with one guy bringing along his sandwich and drink from home. Since we were never full at lunch, the owner was happy to get the 6 paying customers. He didn’t feel he was “losing” a seat, but gaining some goodwill. Since I only worked lunch one day a week, I’m not sure how often they came in.

    I think the question becomes what kind of restaurant. Fast food or a step up? Would you think to take food into Red Lobster? I wouldn’t. A quick sandwich place with outside tables? Probably, but I would try to buy something from them as this person did. Have you seen a group of travelers stop at a cluster of fast food places and each get something from a different place? Where do they eat then? Is taking other restaurant food into someplace better or worse than homemade food? All interesting questions and some that have been addressed by some state laws. More to think about!

  • 14. Mimi  |  June 1, 2009 at 8:16 PM

    Absolutely, especially if others in the group are buying meals. I have an extremely picky grandson and he always carries a brown bag of food to most restaurants and orders only a drink. Everyone else in the family orders meals, so I see no problem with this.

  • 15. Slinky  |  June 2, 2009 at 8:02 PM

    I don’t see the problem with this situation at all. It’s one thing if the person doesn’t purchase something and is preventing other customers from using that space during a busy time. But she bought food, and wasn’t inconveniencing anyone. Generally, if she’s not hurting the place’s business by doing so and the management doesn’t object, I don’t see the problem.

  • 16. Abigail  |  June 8, 2009 at 3:06 AM

    Generally speaking, I don't think it's a good idea. But since they were outside the actual restaurant, I guess it's okay.

    I probably would have eaten the sandwich on the way over (or after the actual meal disbanded). Still, as long as she wasn't in the actual establishment, I guess it's kosher.

  • 17. Anonymous  |  July 25, 2009 at 7:36 AM

    You are utilizing the restaurant staffs time by sitting in a seat and ordering just a drink or chips. It is against most state health codes to bring in your own food or drink to a restaurant. If you can't afford to eat out. Stay home. If you are cheap.. eat at McDonalds. They may not care. As a restaurant owner, many seats filled with two or four dollar sales will put me out of business. People I pay will clean up after you, wash your silverware or dish, refill the condiments you may have used all for the pennies I make on your soda, its not right. Be respectful, a restaurant is a business and as such keep in mind there is an army of people cooking, cleaning and serving you. That woman should have politely declined.

    It doesn't depend on any circumstance, factor or amount of overpriced or cheaply priced items you buy.. Its wrong. Go eat in a public park with your friend and her take out. If you don't agree, you are probably just cheap!

  • 18. Red  |  November 14, 2010 at 11:45 PM

    I love that she had the balls to do that! If only I had done that the many times my coworkers at my last job asked me to go out to lunch… Well, I might not have gained 20 pounds in six months! ­čśë

    Seriously though, when we were younger, my parents would take one of my brothers to McDonald's because he didn't like the food at the restaurant we were visiting. We'd bring his McDonald's in with us to a different restaurant. I see nothing wrong with it. Like she said, she wasn't freeloading or taking up a seat. Good for her!

    And to the restaurant owner who had a problem with it, I would ask you – does your restaurant have a minimum purchase requirement? If not, it's not this woman's fault. She could have just as easily ordered a water and a side salad. (Which probably only costs $2.99.) What's wrong with that?

    p.s. I've started bringing my own water bottle to restaurants. I hate paying $2.39 for a glass of tea, and I don't like to risk ordering water that tastes disgusting. So I bring my own, and no one has ever said anything. If they did, I'd go elsewhere to eat.


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