A New Law Is Forcing French Restaurants to Give Customers Doggy Bags

As inconceivable as it is, the era of soggy salad and overcooked pasta in Styrofoam containers may soon be upon the French Republic.

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Jan 5 2016, 10:00pm

Foto von Dale Cruse via Flickr

Who wouldn't want to outclass coworkers by reheating leftover bistro classics like coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, or quenelle de brochet in the office microwave?

The French, that's who.

While providing customers with containers for leftovers is seen as customary on this side of the Atlantic, in France, the mere suggestion of le doggy bag can elicit scorn and bewilderment among the country's famously intense waiters.

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That's all set to change in 2016, since the enactment of a new law in France that will force restaurants that serve more than 150 customers per day to provide diners with the means to bring their leftovers home in an effort to curb food waste, France 24 is reporting.

But that's not to say that the new legal framework will be easy to implement in a nation which takes etiquette very seriously. In fact, there isn't even a French word for doggy bag, but there is definitely a French word for how asking for one is perceived—faux pas.

Given the intense effort put into preparation and presentation in French cuisine, it's no surprise that restaurant staff customarily balk at requests for preserving leftovers. In a culinary culture as rich, and sometimes rigid, as France's, shifts in attitude don't exactly happen overnight, no matter how noble the cause.

In order to cut down on food waste and better understand consumer attitudes towards leftovers, the French government even commissioned a report which found that in France "the obstacle is mostly cultural," adding that "the majority of diners don't dare to ask for the leftovers of their meal, while the restaurateurs see it as a 'degradation' of their dishes."

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That doesn't mean that there isn't at least some openness to the idea of cutting down on waste. Another regional report found that while "75 percent of French people are open to the idea of doggy bags, 70 per cent have never taken leftovers home with them," according to France 24.

Last year, before the current law even came into effect, Parisian authorities and catering unions joined forces to introduce doggy bags, which have been rebranded as le gourmet bag by some restaurants, into 100 of the city's eateries.

The city of lights is responsible for nearly 125 pounds of organic waste per year per capita, "which consists mainly of leftover food and packaged food products that haven't been consumed," according to Paris 24.

And while these may seem like insurmountable obstacle, if French stereotypes are to be believed, lest we recall that smoking cigarettes in restaurants was outlawed in 2007 despite massive opposition. But that hasn't stopped the cigarette ban from being upheld, albeit begrudgingly.

In other words, as inconceivable as it is, the era of soggy salad and overcooked pasta in Styrofoam containers may soon be upon the French Republic.