Saudi Arabia: Should Customers Be Levied an Additional Charge for an Unfinished Meal?

Not much left!


One Saudi restaurant owner has posted signs within his restaurant stating that if any customers do not finish their meal, leaving food on their plate, they will be charged an additional fee.  The basis for his decision is seeing how much food has gone to waste yet knowing of food crisis elsewhere around the world.  Taking matters into his own hands, he now levies a “fee” for any clients who leave food on their plates.  The monies collected are put into a box and then distributed to differing charities.  The restaurant owner hopes that other restaurants will follow his example.

Personally, I do not have a problem with a customer paying a fee, especially if the client chose to leave food rather than request a ‘to go’ box.  At the same time, I can attest that many Saudi restaurants are very generous with their portions and understand why some individuals are unable to finish their meal.

There are poor everywhere, including in Saudi Arabia, who go hungry.  Sadly though, most countries (to include the United States) are prohibited by law from giving away excess food to the poor.  However, in Saudi Arabia and especially during Ramadan, many families would distribute excess food to poor families.

Leftovers are not a common practice in Saudi Arabia.  My own husband would have our leftover food distributed daily.  We lived in an all-Saudi compound which had third country nationals working for minimal salaries as drivers or compound maintenance workers.  These employees had their own “communal” lodgings and my husband would take the food to them.  This was not food directly from an unfinished plate but rather excess that was still from the original dish. They were always very appreciative of his actions.

I should also add that since hospitality is a high priority among Saudis it is customary for many families to also prepare additional food in the event of any unexpected guests.  Among some families, it would not be unusual for family members to pop in for a visit and they would be expected to stay for the meal.



16 Responses

  1. Just wondering how the mechanics work as the report did not give details.

    You provided one example of the portions being too big for some people. Does the restaurant give control to the customer to specify a size of a plate? I have problems finishing my plate most of the time with US portions.

    Also, what if the dish was not good enough for someone to finish the meal? That can produce an awkward situation where the customers have to complain, while usually they will just pass.

    What if other restaurants follow the same rules and all of the sudden people eat more since the are compelled to finish their plates? Saudi belt sizes may go up by a few inches and it may give the US a challenge for cellulite supremacy 🙂

    Never the less, I think it is a good idea if it reduces waste and provides charitable donations.

  2. @MoQ, I’ve been to that restaurant.. its very cozy and its owner is very kind.. the whole additional charge thing is not mandatory but is kindly asked. you can take it in a “doggy bag” if you cant finish it or if its not good.

    but if you just leave your food and don’t take rest with you then they ask you to give a donation.. he can refuse to do so.. but its just to make them remember the poor people who cant eat anything let alone leave leftovers.

    also the restaurant serves basically Shawarma which is a size of a small sandwich.. i.e he shouldn’t order more than one if he cant finish them.

  3. You raise good points, MoQ and portion size is certainly subjective. I wish the report did give more details. I’m sure if this is copied in other Saudi eateries we will certainly hear even more about it.

    On Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 5:22 PM, American Bedu

  4. I don’t know. I don’t want to be compelled to eat more than I am comfortable with.
    I agree with Moq, if I get the choice between 4 different sizes of plates, then maybe…
    I wish they would give you a choice in sizes in America, American plates are usually way too big.

    I found the amounts of food on the plates on the video quite large. Too large for me.

  5. Thanks for the explanation Moh. It does make sense for a Shawarma restaurant.

  6. I think this is a commendable initiative on the restaurant owner’s part in effort to reduce wastage. I also believe this is a good act for the Americans to adopt. America is the leading nation in terms of wastage despite its population of only 5% from the world’s population.I know personally that another very popular Saudi restaurant, Al Baik , gives away any leftovers it accumulates to the poor on a daily basis.

  7. One possible solution is to slightly reduce the portion sizes. As for what constitutes is unacceptable not the easiest.

  8. Jean,

    We don’t need to have a portion size per meal limit, we need to have a meal per customer limit. in this case for instance.. you can finish 1 Shawarma in 2 bites, that’s why people order 2,3,4..etc.

    people should finish their first sandwich before ordering another.. just because you feel so hungry that you could eat a horse doesn’t mean that you can or will.

  9. I am not sure about the technique, but definitely do not like to see food wasted. That is one thing I like about buffet style. I choose the amount and can go back for more if I liked it that much.

  10. Portion sizes are way too large in most places, in US it’s beyond large . when the kids were home we could order 3 entrees and share amongst 4 of us, my sone nad daughter could be depended on to finish everything 🙂 now with just 2 of us, we order just appetizers smaller plates and more variety .

    I think that a fee is a good plan, but won’t stop people from taking it in a togo bag and dumping it anyway. the key is a fee + smaller portions.

  11. Smaller portions for sure. My experiences with food In restaurants in KSA was that portions were much too large. Not many people require that much food and it shows in the increasing body size in Saudi.
    There is a Chinese restaurant close by that has a buffet and they have started charging people for taking too much food and not finishing it. He donates the money to various charities. I’ve been to American buffets where people will pile sooooo much onto their plates it’s sickening. It’s terrible when they eat that much and terrible when they waste it. I personally don’t like buffets for that reason.

  12. @Wendy,

    It is true that in some restaurants portions are too much, but I would rather “pay less and feed more, rather than pay more and feed less”..

    for example:- Bukhari food.. “an order of rice and a full chicken” cost 20 riyals and 3 people could easily share it and get full..

    as for the opposite side, if you go to a place like Al Tazaj.. “a small order of rice and a quarter of a chicken” is 30 riyals which cant even fully satisfy 1 person let alone a group of people.. then of course the body size is going to increase by going to the previous cheaper choice. lol

    as for the buffets, if they’re cheap then people would want to profit from them by increasing their food size ratio.

    if the buffet is pricy then people would want to justify what they paid for by eating to the price/food limit.

    there is no middle ground because you don’t know the type of income every customer has to set a price that would be considered average.

  13. There are portion sizes that people should NOT exceed to be healhy. Unless somebody is a Sumo Wrestler they don’t need the amount of food generally served in a restaurant. I actually resent getting enough food for 3 people on my plate. It’s wasteful and if I recall eating it all (gluttony) is a sin. I observed people in Saudi eating waaaaaay too much at one meal and that goes for the USA also. LOL!!!

  14. I personally like buffets since they allow me to limit the amount of food I receive! Yes; I’m a “bad bargain” to take to a buffet!

  15. @Wendy,

    You are looking at the matter from a personal view..

    Income level is very low here especially among expats “roughly 15 million people” and young unemployed Saudis “2 million people”

    you cant expect “3 people” for example to buy 90 SR worth of food if they can get the same amount for 20 SR.

    a lot of people including myself and my friends, eat almost every day from these places.. with only the college bonuses to depend on (850 SR)

    So 40 SR (lunch and dinner) for 3 people X 30 days = 400 SR per person.. almost half the bonus, is a lot better than..

    60 SR (lunch and dinner) for 1 person X 30 days = 1800 SR. which is Double the bonus.

    I should clear that I am against gluttony.. but nowadays its forced on people because they are suffering from the high cost of living which made them look for “a favorable cost-to-benefit ratio”.

    if the food is too much for someone or if they cant share it then they should just change the place they eat from, there are a lot of places that serve small portioned foods for individuals..

    just don’t ask all the places to lower their portions. 🙂

  16. Fine if people take food home and it’s not wasted. If we have leftover food we take it home. We also know what restaurants heap up the plates so that those we’ll only order one meal. At buffets of course you can’t load up and take food home so I think it’s a great idea for the restaurant to have a fee for food left on the plate. I’ve only ever seen that kind of money going to charity so it’s fine with me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: