NYC Eatery Imposes Surcharge for Unfinished Food

Did your mother tell you to clean your plate?

If so, you'd be a good candidate for the all-you-can eat special at Hayashi Ya.

The Japanese restaurant on Manhattan's West Side imposes a surcharge for wasted and unfinished food.

A chalkboard sign in front of the restaurant advertises all you can eat for $26.95 per person, sake or soda included.

But the sign says there's a 30 percent surcharge for wasted or unfinished food. That would add about $8 to the check.

Manager Ben Lin says the policy has been in effect for about two years.

Chuck Hunt, a spokesman for the New York State Restaurant Association, said he has not heard of any restaurant imposing a similar surcharge.

"I'm not aware of any other places that have done it," he said.

But Hunt acknowledged that food waste is a problem for restaurants and home cooks alike.

Roughly 30 percent of food in the U.S. goes to waste, costing some $48 billion annually, according to a Stockholm Water Institute study released this summer. A 2004 University of Arizona study put the total higher, estimating that 40 percent to 50 percent of U.S. food is wasted.

Joel Berg, the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and a former U.S. Department of Agriculture official in the Clinton administration, said food waste ranges from crops left to rot in the field to vegetables that consumers buy and don't get around to cooking.

"All throughout the process of producing food there is waste," Berg said. "I think Americans would be shocked to know the amount of food that is left on fields."