Jamie Crummie: It's time to rename the Doggy Bag

Welcome to the first of what I hope will become a series of enthralling blogs written by myself: co-founder of what I like to call - although I could be a little biased - ‘the world’s coolest app’, Too Good To Go.

Too Good To Go is a social impact company that’s all about fighting food waste. A major part of this is our app, which lets consumers buy surplus, unsold food from stores and restaurants. So I guess it’s fairly unsurprising that I am going to be talking about, well, food waste. And why wouldn’t I? Food waste is a massive global issue, and it needs urgent attention.

If you’re a follower of Too Good To Go, you probably already know that 8% of greenhouse gas emissions come from food waste. Yes, you heard that right: food waste, not production. It means that if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest GHG emitter after the US and China. And if you didn't know that, you do now - so let’s all get to work to change this.

This is actually the first blog I have ever written, so bear with while I try and keep you hooked. I had a ruff idea about what I wanted to write about first, and after a short paws, this month’s topic became clear to me. Here at Too Good To Go UK, we have just launched our ‘Reclaim the doggy bag’ campaign - hence the appalling attempt at canis puns. (As I said, bear with me.)

To give some context, I feel it is worth starting with what a doggy bag is: after all, research shows that one in five Brits think a doggy bag is something to do with pet waste - not the food left on your plate.

The origins of the doggy bag can be traced backed to the Romans in 6th century BC, where guests attending banquets were handed napkins to take home delicacies so they didn’t leave empty-handed. Though the Romans, as innovative as they were, didn’t articulate the phrase. For this we must cross the Atlantic to the States, post World War II, where restaurants started offering patrons leftover steak bones to feed the family pet. This phenomenon caught on, and soon diners the country over were asking to take their remaining food home in doggy bags - even if they were intending to eat it themselves. Fast forward to 2019, and now the concept is the norm in American dining.

As we now know, the doggy bag is a term we use to ask for the leftover food - the food we have ordered and paid for at a restaurant - to be packed so we can eat it later. Makes sense, right? So why are 1 in 4 adults too embarrassed to ask for a doggy bag?

The amount of food we are talking about here is no small amount either: over 1.3 million plates of restaurant leftovers are thrown away each week, all of which could have been doggy bagged. This wastage hurts everyone involved - restaurants bear the cost of waste disposal, customers lose out on food they paid for, and the planet is weighed down with one more plate of food waste. It all adds up.

As a food Waste Warrior - and someone whose colleagues refer to him as a human dustbin - I seldom find myself in a situation where I need to ask for a doggy bag. But I spoke with Eamonn Holmes on Talktalk radio about this very matter, and we both agreed that there was a stigma around asking for a doggy bag. Why is it that we are too embarrassed to take our food home? Are we worried about how this request will be perceived by our peers or the restaurant? Do we think this comes across as cheap? Is the term ‘doggy bag’ off putting?

Too Good To Go is running a Twitter poll with alternative names put forward by our community of Waste Warriors; suggestions from ‘Chow Pouch’, to ‘Home Box’, to ‘Snack Pack’. With a new name that accurately represents what a doggy bag is, we hope to raise awareness of the issue, and remove the stigma surrounding it. Changing mindsets is key to getting customers to embrace the value of food.

Rachel Ramsay
Content Manager