Waitrose staff 'suspended for finishing off leftovers'

Should staff be allowed to leat leftover food?

Updated: 
Waitrose supermarketThe Daily Record has reported that 17 staff had been suspended from the cafe in a branch of Waitrose in Milngavie, near Glasgow. Apparently there were allegations that they may have been finishing up customers' leftovers.

Waitrose made it clear that it does not comment on personnel issues - and highlighted that the cafe was operating as normal - so the story is based on comments from a source.

They claimed that bosses spotted that some people had a habit of taking a couple of bites when a customer had left something particularly tasty on the plate. They added that one member of staff had been sacked at a disciplinary meeting.

Why?

The details of this case remain a private matter, but most restaurants will not allow staff to eat customers' leftovers, partly because it is insanitary. The food has been out of the sight of staff, and there's no knowing whether it has been on the floor, been handled by someone who is unwell, or succumbed to something equally unpleasant.

Restaurants may also ban the practice because there's too fine a line between eating leftovers and stealing food - it's why some take a zero-tolerance approach to the rule.

A query on Quora covered this issue recently, however, and discovered a range of approaches. Some restaurants had an 'employees'' table in the kitchen, where food was left if it had been made incorrectly. Ingredients that were nearing the end of their life would be left there too, and staff could help themselves.

Others had a policy of turning a blind eye when staff scoffed leftovers - something that was particularly common among pot washers. However, some restaurants (particularly chains) drew the line entirely at employees ever eating anything from the restaurant - to avoid any grey areas at all.

Waste?

Unfortunately, in these cases, this can mean an extraordinary amount of waste.

The question of waste is increasingly a hot topic for restaurants. In some cases restaurants have been working with food banks to find a way of using food cooked in the kitchen but never served.

Increasingly, they conduct 'waste audits' to see which dishes produce the most leftovers, and then changing the portion sizes. This has the double-whammy of immediately making the dish more profitable too.

In 2007, in Hong Kong one restaurant tried an unusual approach - threatening to fine people who left too much food on their plates.

You have to wonder whether letting staff eat kitchen leftovers (rather than things sent out to customers) is a much simpler solution.

But what do you think? Do you care what happens to your leftovers? Let us know in the comments.

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