Issue at Woodlands Salata Raises Question: Should You Bring Outside Food to Restaurants?

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Photo courtesy Salata
No salad for you!
On Friday, the Chronicle's Syd Kearney reported on a brouhaha going down on Facebook.

Apparently two mothers and their kids had gone to Salata, a fast casual salad restaurant with locations all over Houston, and encountered an issue when they sat down to eat their meals. Employees of the Market Street Salata in the Woodlands informed the mothers that they couldn't bring outside food into the restaurant, and if they wanted to eat the Chipotle burritos they had brought for the kids, they'd need to leave.

The mothers, incensed that they had to take three children and meals and eat outside in the "95 degree heat" (Note: The high on Friday was 91), took to social media to complain about Salata.

salatastuff.jpg
Photo courtesy Salata Market Street
Mother Heather Leigh was displeased with Salata's actions.
The mother who accompanied Heather Leigh also posted about the incident on Salata's Facebook page, but we were unable to locate the post. The Chronicle has a screenshot.

Oddly, there was another post shortly after Heather Leigh's by yet another woman who ate at the same Salata with her husband and children and had the exact same thing happen to her! Crazy! We're not saying it didn't happen. We're just saying...what a coincidence...

salatastuff2.jpg
Photo courtesy Salata Market Street
It was a bad day to be a mom at Salata. Or a Salata employee.

As far as we know, the only places in Houston that allow outside food to be brought in are bars, like Liberty Station, which doesn't serve food of its own, but encourages diners to hit up the food truck out front or bring food from other restaurants. Cottonwood has a kitchen, but the bar/restaurant also frequently hosts food truck gatherings, so diners are allowed to bring in food from the participating trucks. In the Chronicle article, Kearney notes that Winetopia not only serves food but invites guests to order delivery from a number of nearby restaurants. Recently, while reviewing Pugon de Manila, I saw a family bring in food from nearby Jersey Mike's Subs for a child, and none of the employees said anything, though I wouldn't encourage other diners to follow suit.

It's true that most restaurants don't explicitly prohibit food from outside businesses with signage posted before you enter (though, according to people who frequent this particular Salata location, this place does), but it was my belief that this was sort of an unspoken rule. Would you bring your own food into Oxheart? No. Why does having children at a more casual restaurant make it any more acceptable?

Some restaurants allow parents to being food from home for children. I recently witnessed a couple with a small child at Paulie's feeding the kid crackers and fruit from a bag they'd brought with them. Many parents do this due to their children's dietary restrictions or picky eating habits, but if you feel this is acceptable, you have to wonder where to draw the line. Is bringing food from home OK, but bringing food from another restaurant unacceptable?

After Heather Leigh posted on numerous outlets, Salata responded with the following statement:

Heather, We really regret you had a bad experience. It is Salata's policy not to allow outside food for a number of reasons -- of primary concern is a safe environment for all of our guests. We've taken significant steps to certify our restaurants gluten-free and train our staff in food safety as it relates to food allergens and cross contamination. We do want you to try Salata and see it in the best possible light.

Heather went on to ask if the pita chips at Salata are gluten free and to note that she called many other restaurants to ask about bringing in outside food. She also noted, "I've taken so many organic packed lunches into restaurants for my kids and never once has anyone ever told me to leave." In other news, Chipotle tacos are apparently now organic.

The responses to Heather Leigh's post on the Salata Facebook page were mixed. Some people seemed to agree with her, but most called her "entitled" and noted that there are cross-contamination issues when you bring outside food into a restaurant. The article on the Chronicle's site has garnered ore than 290 comments, so clearly Houstonians feel strongly about the issue of whether or not outside food should be brought into restaurants.

Houston Press readers, we want to know what you think. Who was in the right here? And is it ever OK to bring outside food into a restaurant? Why or why not?

Location Info

Salata

9595 Six Pines Dr, The Woodlands, TX

Category: Restaurant

Liberty Station

2101 Washington, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Cottonwood

3422 N. Shepherd Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Pugon de Manila

8017 South Main, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Winetopia

6363 San Felipe St., Houston, TX

Category: Music

Paulie's

1834 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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84 comments
EMILY465
EMILY465

When our children were younger we loved ,still do ,eating at a particular Indian restaurant.They never had a problem with us bringing in food for our children.Because kiddos were happy and content we ordered more food ...appys etc.We tipped as if they had a child's menu and we had ordered from that menu also.Now a couple of our children love Indian food the other two not so much .When our older two are in from college this restaurant is their first request....sometimes it pays off for a restaurant to have patience for families.

George Zoes
George Zoes

Quit raising your kids to be brats. Make them eat salad. Why are kids controlling their parents these days. When I grew up i had two choices. 1. eat what was on the plate 2. got my ass whooped

Amy Smith
Amy Smith

Baby food yes, small toddler snacks yes, actual meal - uh no. I own a computer store, I guess people should be able to bring their own techs because they don't like ours?? WTF

Brett Walker
Brett Walker

It's pretty trashy to bring outside to a restaurant, next time lady leave the 18 month old with a sitter or go eat some where else.

maryiacono
maryiacono

Why would someone feel it's OK to bring in food to a restaurant without asking permission?

How has our society devolved to one without propriety????

A faster, more casual environment doesn't mean class should be obsolete.

Maybe this need to be taught to this generation!?

If someone actually asked and was polite, I'm sure the restaurant would be more than accommodating.

Just showing up and taking up valuable Real Estate is rude!

Didn't your mother teach you better, Heather?

Guess not!?

You need to learn!

Restaurant servers deserve your respect.

If you spoke to them, and acknowledged your circumstance, I'm sure they would be more than accommodating!

Everyone deserves respect.

Entitlement gets you nowhere!

dana300
dana300

LOL. In the couple of minutes it takes to pack up the food and relocate to the patio the sun heated her salad leaving it inedible? This woman is a riot.

Kimberly Magaña
Kimberly Magaña

It is very rude to bring food from another restaurant. You should just order to go. Restaurants must follow their food safety rules which try to prevent cross contamination.People need to follow the rules..period!

Donna Weaver
Donna Weaver

I heard about this on Roula and Ryan. KEBE 104.

paval
paval topcommenter

Bringing in food from outside places into a restaurant has probably not as much to do with sanitation as that it is straight out bad for business. (If I work in a Subway and I come in with a bag of Mc Donalds I am making bad advertising for Subway.)
I work in a food store and I try to always walk in through the back door if I were to have food from an easily recognizable competitor.
As for the mom not being able to accept a rule from a restaurant, or ask in advance for a waiver from that rule, is simply bad manners. We are all guests when we go to a restaurant and as such we should accept the house rules, specially if they are quite common and reasonable. And yes not being able to find anything edible in the Salata offer (I am not four but I do not find anything edible in Salata either, but I just dont go there) for kids should actually lead to a review of what these kids are actually eating.
A French couple I knew would not allow their kids to sit at the dining table with the adults unless they learned to behave correctly on the table. You can bet their kids learned quickly to eat up everything and also to properly use fork and knife, sit straight, chew properly, etc. Quite strict, but no rules leads to a lot more messed up kids than too many rules in my experience (have had it harder than others, but not as hard as the French kids, and I m quite alright)

marissal.jenkins
marissal.jenkins

There are many reasons why this is not allowed:  Liability Insurance issues, safety, Health Dept. issues and just plain common sense...they are a restaurant - they are in the business of selling food - their food.  They are not BYOF...please can everyone use a bit of common sense.  If someone chokes on food from another restaurant - now who is at fault?...food poisoning - who is getting the blame?  If the smell of outside food bothers other diners...who is to blame?  WHY - just eat what they have there or go somewhere else. (exception babies/toddlers)

valkyre420
valkyre420

Why couldn't the 4 y.o. eat a Salata wrap? Other than baby food for babies, no, patrons shouldn't be able to bring outside food into a restaurant.

txcyclist
txcyclist

I'm going to guess that the issue is with the Chipotle burrito, not with the baby food. It also sounds like Salata has their policy stated on the door. If that's the case, the customer chose to ignore the policy, and then was offended when they applied the stated policy equally to her. I don't understand why she's so upset.


Tips: 

1) Don't choose a restaurant in which you know everyone can't (or won't) eat. Perhaps today is not the day you should dine at Salata. Go elsewhere.

2) If you're going to ignore a stated policy, don't clutch your pearls and get indignant when management enforces said policy. 

SaucyBossy
SaucyBossy

I don't think it's a big deal. I brought outside food (Mac & Cheese) to Don Pico's in Pearland for my 4 yr old niece. I didn't see a sign, but it honestly didn't cross my mind that they might not allow that. The waiter brought her a kids plate and scooped it onto her plate. He didn't care, we weren't thrown out and I had an enjoyable lunch with friends and a 4 yr old. 

Venessa Singh
Venessa Singh

If they are there with a friend who is eating their food, they should let it alone

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Bored housewife from the Woodlands complains about a posted policy? This is front page news.

Jennifer Alsworth
Jennifer Alsworth

I have a small child and we are always out and about. Sometimes I come across this issue and we just have to deal with it. It is our choice to have kids and our choice on where we will spend our money. I don't expect for anyone to bend the rules for me or my child so we take our business elsewhere. There are too many good restaurants out there that can accommodate the entire family. I love going to Salata but only go during my lunch hour because NO one else in my family likes this place. Get over it parents and don't make the rest of us look bad.

Hilda Gomez
Hilda Gomez

It's ridiculous to expect employees to scan incoming customers for outside food before they order. It's common sense that you can't bring outside food and I hate that people with kids always want to bend the rules and get special treatment. I think that unless you have a special needs child who has trouble eating what is served there, you should be able to abide by the rules set forth for everyone. If you want it that bad, pick it up and go home and feed your child whatever you want. It's always a case of bratty kids or bratty parents.

SpikeWong
SpikeWong

Salata is so over-rated! Back in the day when a restaurant was about customer service first, My grandmother was with out entire family out for dinner and she didn't like what was on the menu. So the restaurant owner offered to go to another nearby restaurant and get her something different. needless to say, this was a smart move! not only my grandmother was happy, they didn't lose a table of 8 over this one person. Great service.

Lori Perkins
Lori Perkins

Don't go to a restaurant that doesn't offer food for your children. Simple. A restaurant is a business and they have a right to refuse service to anyone. I wouldn't want someone bringing a competitor into my place of business. I don't really remember having a choice of what I ate as a kid. I ate what everyone else ate and somehow I survived.

DeAnza Johnson
DeAnza Johnson

It's ok to have varying tastes from your children. It is not ok to expect a restaurant to allow food in from competitors/food establishments if it's their policy. She could have simply asked for permission from the business upfront.

kap717
kap717

The policy was displayed on a sign upon entering: no outside food. She chose to ignore that, then complains when they stick to their policy?  If you don't like their policy, that's one thing. But don't be upset that they asked you to leave when you were clearly disregarding their request.

DeAnza Johnson
DeAnza Johnson

@tessa salata has To-Go options. I use that option often. I don't feel sorry for this lady, she was in Market Street!!! The area is HEAVILY shaded with a kid friendly park with umbrellas and a water installation.

stutheige
stutheige

So then it would be okay for a family of 5 to stop at 4 different restaurants and get take out for 4 different family memebers, then stop at the 5th restaurant and purchase 1 meal and all 5 eat?  Where does it end just because you have kids that are picky?  Baby food for a infant is one thing but if they are able to eat a taco then find something to order.  Or hey...brilliant just eat at Chipotle??

FoodieMom
FoodieMom

My son is 8, and BEGS to eat at Salata. In addition to salads, wraps and soup are on the menu.


Children who are exposed to a variety of foods will enjoy a diet that consists of more than chicken nuggets, tacos and french fries.


carriebwc
carriebwc

No, just no.  It is one thing if you are feeding your kid Goldfish crackers out of a bag, but you CANNOT bring in food for your kids from another restaurant.  Salata (any any other restaurant) is not a public park with picnic benches where you can eat what you want.  Sorry, lady.  Them's the rulez.

jimbo1126
jimbo1126

Bring food from another establishment or even from home to a restaurant for it to be consumed as is? Never.

Bring a small tin of Maldon sea salt flakes for discretionary use? Often.

Kim Dubya
Kim Dubya

You go to a restaurant to eat the food they serve. Would you go to a dinner party and bring your own dinner? No. Way to set an example....be rude and then cry about it, that'll get you far in life. I think a nice fresh salata salad is in my near future.

Victor Vega
Victor Vega

Go eat at the food court. Customers are rude to think they can just do what they want.

Andrew Hernandez
Andrew Hernandez

The saying "the customer is always right" is completely false.

Léne Longoria
Léne Longoria

If she's carrying a big diaper bag then most likely she had it in the bag. She saw the sign and if she was unsure they'd enforce it she should have asked. I have a child and I have also nannied for a girl on a very strict diet. She could not eat a normal meal, so if we ever went somewhere for dinner we would call the business before hand and ask for permission. Even on a trip to Disney world, where outside food is strictly prohibited, they allowed food brought in for her because we called beforehand and oked it and brought the doctors note of the strict diet. This mom seems like she was just being sneaky and there is no excuse to throw that blame on the business

Stephanie Soto
Stephanie Soto

If she definitely was sneaking those burritos in then I understand, but I try and see things from both sides. I don't disagree with the restaurant but having worked in a restaurant we checked for those things as they walked in and took a seat. It's pretty noticeable, especially because children want their food right away.

Springfoodie
Springfoodie

I find it hard to believe that there would be nothing at this establishment for kids. Most salad bars have slices of cucumbers, celery, tomatoes and pasta salads. I have made plates of raw veggies and fruits and a little bit of ranch dressing for my 3 year old to dip them in at other salad bars. On other occasions, when my husband and I have gone to eat crawfish and knowing that my 3 year old can't eat it because of the spices we have taken him to eat first and then indulged ourselves after. Of course my kid always wants scallops with his steak and prefers subway over Mcd's and LOVES his sushi... So I can usually find him food where ever we go! 

Patrick A Haddix
Patrick A Haddix

Yes leave we serve food. If your kids want McDonald's take them there

Léne Longoria
Léne Longoria

But the fact that she admits to reading the sign before hand, and still doing it. I'm sure they didn't pull out burritos before they purchased their salads and ask if it was ok. I'm sure they just assumed that if they already paid for their food that salata wouldn't boot them out after they pull their trick.

Craig Cowart
Craig Cowart

It's on the customer/parent to do their due diligence and not assume it's ok to bring outside food in to any restaurant.

Julie Allison
Julie Allison

I never even thought if this as a policy. I bring birthday cakes to restaurants often and the restaurant will even keep it in their fridge for us. Why didn't they just get a salad at Chipolte. Also banning kids? Children are citizens of the country with human rights people!?

CmonMan
CmonMan

It is one thing to bring in baby food or even small snacks but a burrito! C'mon the kid is 4, he does not need a burrito! Lol... the next article will be about Salata suing for defamation of character, good luck!

Ryan Sytsma
Ryan Sytsma

Yeah, this sounds like people feeling entitled to do whatever they want to do. First of your kids are probably spoiled rotten. How about trying a little discipline and saying this is were we are eating so this is what you are eating. No time like the present, to teach them that this is a harsh ass world and you can't just do what you want when you want. Secondly, I would understand if you popped out some animal crackers or something, but, you deliberately brought in Chipotle. Really? Imagine if you had a dinner party where you spent all day cooking and one of your guests said "no thanks, I brought my own Chinese from the Golden Wok, down the street."

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@EMILY465 

You're tacky, but not as bad as the parents that brought a small potty to a restaurant and had their kids take a shit at the table

TheBestCritic1
TheBestCritic1

Great analogy!!!!  How about bring your own beer to the bar cause they don't serve your favorite.  DON'T TAKE YOUR KIDS WHERE THEY WON'T EAT OFF THE MENU.   TAKE THEM TO McDONALDS, AND YOU EAT OFF THEIR MENU!!!

mariequeenbee
mariequeenbee

Even more obnoxious is going on a social rant because the restaurant didn't cater to her demands?! Amazing

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