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Restaurant Portions Are Too Big, survey shows


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A new national survey conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation and released today found that more than half of the public believes the typical size of portions in restaurants in the United States is too big.

Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said the typical size of portions in restaurants in the United States is too big  ....  There is a substantial "portion gap" between men and women ....  Women again proved to be the thought-leading consumers, with 31 percent of women saying they would be much more likely to eat at a restaurant offering half-sized portions

Gifted Gourmet, completely nonprofessional surveyer, asking now for your opinion ...

Would you opt for a restaurant with half-sized portions if it was offered? :rolleyes:

Are you satisfied with the options as they are now presented? :smile:

Given the cost of a meal in a restaurant, is it going to be worth the money to have a smaller meal? :huh:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I often order smaller portions in restaurants, either getting an appetizer as my main course, or simply asking if a dish can be served as a half portion (particularly if it's pasta, as this is routinely done in any case).

Restaurants in the U.S. often serve too much food as a means of offsetting high overhead---the customer thinks he's getting better value for his money if he gets a lot of extra food. So pricing of half portions would not be half of the present prices, but half of the food cost plus all the usual overhead, which is more or less fixed per diner (assuming a steady number of diners).

The only place I've ever eaten in North America that routinely offered half portions was a resort in Ontario. A remote location, so it was full board, and you could order half portions, full portions, or even extra if you were inclined. Very different economics, of course, as the customer had already paid all the overhead up front, and serving more food than a client would eat was simply wasteful. And the remote location of the resort probably meant the waste disposal was actually relatively expensive.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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I vote for half portions. I am not a big eater so I regularly bring home those styrofoam containers. I also regularly order an appetizer and soup or a salad. Most of the time, even in a casual dining establishment, I am there for the experience and company as much as the food so I understand that that is a big part of what I am paying for. I don't know the numbers, but the cost of the actual food can't be that important so I wouldn't expect a half portion to be half price.

What I do wonder is if the average dining public understands that.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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But tapas implies Spanish mostly whereas people may want half-portions of other types of cuisines ... :wink:

I was being somewhat facetious. But my point is that if a restaurant can trendi-fy a type of food, they can convince people to pay full price (or almost full price) for half-portions. It's all in the PR.

Edited by Stone (log)
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Stone makes a good point: that too many places may serve half-portions at full price. :angry: I fully understand the economics of that, and know that there is no good reason for it. Not half-price, probably, but surely not full. :angry:

When I'm at home, I can always take home whatever I don't finish -- and I eat the parts of my restaurant meal with that in mind. When I'm traveling, though, I can't. I hate having to leave food.

One of the things I loved about the concept of clark-lewis in Portland, OR, was that you could order small or family-size (2, 3, etc.) portions of everything on the menu. We were able to taste a lot more that way, and didn't waste anything.

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They're called Tapas restaurants and people flock to them.

But tapas implies Spanish mostly whereas people may want half-portions of other types of cuisines ... :wink:

What about "small plate" restaurants ... very popular here in Vancouver? Order several small plates amongst a group. Eat what you like. Order more if you're still hungry.

I don't buy the overhead argument as a reason for large portions. Many places I have been to offer "not-so-hungry" sized plates. There may be about 1/2 the food, but the price is only reduced by about 1/3.

Larger portions are simply the product of the value-for-money that many people look for. My dad (aged 60) was raised by a mother who grew up during the depression. If his plate isn't FULL when we dine out, he feels he's being gipped. "Super-sizing" isn't seen as a health risk because it's seen as a bargain first.

Arne

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I agree that portion sizes are out of control. And I do not want to eat leftovers.

And I get tired of ordering all appetizers when I really want entrees. And with the price of appetizers anymore in some restaurants, a $25 appetizer, please, just call it an entree and get on with it. And appetizer is something to tease the appetite, not stuff you.

For the arguement that if it is half size then it should be half price, not always. And my stepfather loved Po' Folks because he got a lot of food on his plate. I went there with him when he wanted his fried chicken, biscuits and gravy with mushy green beans. He loved that stuff.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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I don't buy the overhead argument as a reason for large portions.  Many places I have been to offer "not-so-hungry" sized plates.  There may be about 1/2 the food, but the price is only reduced by about 1/3.

Larger portions are simply the product of the value-for-money that many people look for. 

Sounds like you do buy the overhead argument as a reason for large portions if you're willing to pay 2/3 the big meal price for a meal that's only 1/2 as large.

The most egregious example of waaaay too much food I've ever seen served in a restaurant was at an upmarket place in Knoxville called L'Orangerie. Food not bad, considering (this was about 10 years ago), but prices fairly high even by Atlanta standards at that time. But portion sizes were simply enormous, food very nearly lopping over the sides of plates. We were on vacation and had been drinking, and when the waiter brought the first course we just looked up at him and started laughing. He eventually explained that this was expected here, that any less food earned complaints from the well-heeled but older crowd that generally ate there (I was the youngest customer there that night by far).

Tapas and other "small plate" restaurants are often presented as being more like bars than like restaurants, and the attendant vibe/noise is not necessarily what every diner has in mind.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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When me and my friend were on our way to NYC this summer, that night before we flew-out we had dinner at Denny's (dont ask). Of course the portions were horrendous, that was expected, but I'm not a big eater and I know when to stop, so I have no problem leaving food on my plate. My friend however managed to clear his entire plate. A superhuman feat in my opinion. The experience just gave me a little insight as to why so many people are overweight. Everyone in my family simply stops when they are full and we take the rest home, but I guess some people believe they have to eat everything put in front of them to get their money's worth.

I think that less-than-fine dining restaurants should offer half-sized portions at a relative cost. Every fine-dining establishment I've eaten at has presented spot-on portions, IMHO.

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the War Room!"

-Presiden Muffley, Dr. Strangelove

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I agree that I don't have this problem at fine dining establishments. But I don't frequent those, by choice. When traveling on business I usually want to "kick it down a notch" and find someplace casual and comfortable. If I can avoid the "upscale chains" (oxymoron?) I will do that and opt for a local place. I can't tell you how many times I have asked for suggestions from the hotel management and get back... "That place is great. the portions are huge." :blink:

For some perverse reason, I get hit with the huge portions on one of these trips where a doggy bag isn't an option.

BTW... I have never been to The Cheesecake Factory and never will, unless dragged kicking and screaming in a situation not in my control. The main reason is what has been reported to me on the obscene portions.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I think that one of reasons we go to restaurants is to try different foods. The problem is in a lot of places, you order an appetizer and it's a meal's worth of food. Your main dish comes and it's two meal's worth of food. I would love to order more than one thing when I go out(rarely but that's another story LOL) but I just can't justify leaving half my meal. I usually have a main meal and that's it. I loved the resort we stayed at on our honeymoon. Four or five course dinners but you didn't leave with that stuffed feeling. The portions where small, tasty and you left satisfied.

I would definitely go to a restaurant that offered smaller portions. I am constantly amazed at the commercials on tv for the bigger portion, eat more here mentality.

Sandra

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I'd be in favour of smaller portions. I'd rather be able to try several things on the menu, (which is why tasting menus are becoming so popular), than have a huge steak or something which I can't finish and usually can't take home because I'm travelling.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I wish this concept would transport itself to the "fast cuisine sit-down" restaurants here in the midwest.

If I want to have dinner with my family I am usually forced to go to an Applebee's or TGIFridays or worse (BOB EVANS!). I am a small eater and I don't typically enjoy the food at those places , so the huge portions of bad pasta or overcooked fish are awful in the first place let alone being able to choke down a third of it. Usually my family opts to put my leftovers in a styrofoam container that will sit in the fridge for three weeks before being thrown out. Now the Cheesecake Factory, I can't go in that place. I would sooner sit outside it while everyone else gorged on bad food.

At the nicer places here in Columbus, the portions aren't quite so bad and they will accomidate you for the most part. Although I wish the option was presented on the menu in the first place so that I did not have to ask if they would downsize. Unfortunately finer dining is usually only a couple of times every few months with way too many visits to Applebee's in between.

Shannon

my new blog: http://uninvitedleftovers.blogspot.com

"...but I'm good at being uncomfortable, so I can't stop changing all the time...be kind to me, or treat me mean...I'll make the most of it I'm an extraordinary machine."

-Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine

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Would you opt for a restaurant with half-sized portions if it was offered? :rolleyes:

I wouldn't go to the resturant simply because it has half sized portions. But if would be nice if the resturant that I went to had half sized portions. I simply am not able to eat all the food provided at normal places. I generally eat .5 of the appetizer, .5 of the entree and the whole dessert. So having a small discount would be nice.

Are you satisfied with the options as they are now presented? :smile:

No. Alot of resturants serve a ridiculous amount of food. Cheesecake factory being the worst offender out of the resturants that I've been to.

Given the cost of a meal in a restaurant, is it going to be worth the money to have a smaller meal? :huh:

For me it would definatly be worth it. At the moment half the food is thrown out any way. It would be nice that less food is wasted. And heck given the obesity epidimic in this country and how much people pay to lose weight it would probably be worth it to pay for the privilage.

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...

Would you opt for a restaurant with half-sized portions if it was offered? :rolleyes:

Are you satisfied with the options as they are now presented? :smile:

Given the cost of a meal in a restaurant, is it going to be worth the money to have a smaller meal? :huh:

Yes, No, Yes. I went to a winemaker's dinner two nights ago and the tasting menu was so over the top that I have sworn off them forever. The portions may each each look small, but by the end of the meal you've been served two entrees worth of food. It has taken me over 24 hours to recover from that much food and drink!

And while we're on the subject, kudos to Alice Water for never succumbing to the trend of oversized portions. The entree is served on traditional 10 1/2 dinner plates, not platters, and other courses also come out on traditional-sized plates. You will leave Chez Panisse satisfied but not stuffed. [caveat-I never go downstairs on a Friday or Saturday night; she serves more courses then. I go on Mondays "locals night" when only 3 courses are offered.]

Edited by marie-louise (log)
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Hmm, interesting question.

I like restaurant portions where they are right now. Sometimes I eat all of what I am served, sometimes I don't. I certainly don't see the typcial chains (Friday's, Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday's, etc) as having overly large portions. Then again I will typically order an entree, and thats it. I don't go in for appetizers and desserts with meals. If I am ordering appetizers it is to share with some friends over drinks. If I am ordering dinner, it is dinner, not appetizer-dinner-dessert.

Something that is not uncommon for some of the diners around here is to offer special full meal deals for those who want a soup/salad, smaller portion of the entree, and a dessert, all for one lower price. If that is your bag, go for it.

If portions are so large that I don't want to finish the entire meal, that is not a problem, that is what doggy bags are for, two meals for the price of one, and not having to figure out what I am going to have to pack for my lunch the next day, is always a good thing.

If I saw portion sizes decrease without a corresponding decrease in price, yes, I would be upset.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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I love it when small entrees are available. It makes it possible for me to have an appetizer and an entree. Ordering two appetizers is fine in some circumstances, but not always. Lots of times, you want one of the entrees. The last time I was at Roy's in Honolulu, they were offering half portions of most main courses and we gladly took advantage of that. That sort of thing might well figure into our choice or restaurant when traveling (no place to stash leftovers) or at a fine dining place (my partner doesn't like to ask for leftovers boxed up at fancy establishments.)

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Maggiano's (which I know is a chain) offers half-size portions of many of its entrees, and that's a big reason I both eat there and recommend it. I get tired of huge overflowing plates - I know I can get a doggy bag, but too many times it sits in the refrigerator until I throw it out.

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Check out the pictures on this thread about Michael Mina's in San Francisco: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=46639

This is SO MUCH FOOD. It's simply an upscale version of super-sized fast food meals. Is this a trend in other countries, or is this simply an logical extension of American value of more is better?

While that is certainly a lot of food, a multi-course fancy dinner is far from ordinairy daily eating for any of us (well, most of us). While I am sure that if you ate all of that each night one would balloon up quite quickly, if dinners like that are few and far between, there can't be much of any harm.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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I like large portions because having somebody else cook for me is a big reason to go out. Then the next day at lunch I have that benefit again.

When I was last in Kansas City I had SUCH GOOD ribs that I took the leftovers back with me to my hotel, and asked the kitchen staff to freeze it overnight for me. They were kind enough to do so. Then I packed it in my checked luggage. Wonderful the 2nd time around! Granted, the portion of the original meal was probably enough to feed a large dinosaur!

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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  • 2 weeks later...
A lot of places in Florida serve half-size portions for seniors.

Unfortunately it's often only up until 6.30 pm.

Portions are definitely out of control.

Isn't that the "Early Bird Special"? :rolleyes: served until 6:30 because seniors need more sleep ...

Must agree with you about the porions being totally out of control ... and people tend to eat accordingly ... :unsure:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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