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


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.



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