"Take away" redirects here. For the song by Missy Elliott, Ginuwine and Tweet, see Take Away (song). For the film of the same name, see Take Away.
"Take Out" and "Takeout" redirect here. For other uses, see Take Out (disambiguation).
"Carryout" redirects here. For the song by Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, see Carry Out.
"To go" redirects here. For the verb "to go", see Go (verb).
Upper left: A Meat Feast Parmo from Stockton-on-Tees, UK. Upper right: Fish and chips. Lower left: Pizza delivery. Lower right: Döner kebab

Take-out or takeout (in North American and Philippine English); also carry-out (in some dialects in the U.S. and Scotland);[1] take-away (in the United Kingdom other than Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Ireland),[1] parcel (in Indian English and Pakistani English),[2] refers to prepared meals or other food items, purchased at a restaurant, that the purchaser intends to eat elsewhere. A concept found in many ancient cultures, take-out food is now common worldwide, with a number of different cuisines and dishes on offer.


Thermopolium in Herculanum

The concept of prepared meals to be eaten elsewhere dates back to antiquity. Market and roadside stalls selling food were common in both Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.[3] In Pompeii, archaeologists have found a number of thermopolia. These were service counters, opening onto the street, which provided food to be taken away and eaten elsewhere. There is a distinct lack of formal dining and kitchen area in Pompeian homes, which may suggest that eating, or at least cooking, at home was unusual. Over 200 thermopolia have been found in the ruins of Pompeii.[4]

In the cities of medieval Europe there were a number of street vendors selling takeaway food. In medieval London, street vendors sold hot meat pies, geese, sheep's feet and French wine, while in Paris roasted meats, squab, tarts and flans, cheeses and eggs were available. A large strata of society would have purchased food from these vendors, but they were especially popular amongst the urban poor, who would have lacked kitchen facilities in which to prepare their own food.[5] However, these vendors often had a bad reputation, often being in trouble with civic authorities reprimanding them for selling infected meat or reheated food. The cooks of Norwich often defended themselves in court against selling such things as "pokky pies" and "stynkyng mackerelles".[6] In 10th and 11th century China, citizens of cities like Kaifeng and Hangzhou were able to buy pastries such as yuebing and congyoubing to take away. By the early 13th century, the two most successful such shops in Kaifeng had "upwards of fifty ovens".[7] A travelling Florentine reported in the late 14th century that in Cairo, people carried picnic cloths made of raw hide to spread on the streets and eat their meals of lamb kebabs, rice and fritters that they had purchased from street vendors.[8] In Renaissance Turkey, many crossroads saw vendors selling "fragrant bites of hot meat", including chicken and lamb that had been spit roasted.[9]

Aztec marketplaces had vendors that sold beverages such as atolli ("a gruel made from maize dough"), almost 50 types of tamales (with ingredients that ranged from the meat of turkey, rabbit, gopher, frog, and fish to fruits, eggs, and maize flowers),[10] as well as insects and stews.[11] After Spanish colonization of Peru and importation of European food stocks like wheat, sugarcane and livestock, most commoners continued primarily to eat their traditional diets, but did add grilled beef hearts sold by street vendors.[12] Some of Lima's 19th century street vendors such as "Erasmo, the 'negro' sango vendor" and Na Aguedita are still remembered today.[13]

Street food vendors in early 20th century New York City.

During the American colonial period, street vendors sold "pepper pot soup" (tripe) "oysters, roasted corn ears, fruit and sweets," with oysters being a low-priced commodity until the 1910s when overfishing caused prices to rise.[14] In 1707, after previous restrictions that had limited their operating hours, street food vendors had been banned in New York City.[15] Many women of African descent made their living selling street foods in America in the 18th and 19th centuries; with products ranging from fruit, cakes and nuts in Savannah, Georgia, to coffee, biscuits, pralines and other sweets in New Orleans.[16] In the 19th century, street food vendors in Transylvania sold gingerbread-nuts, cream mixed with corn, and bacon and other meat fried on tops of ceramic vessels with hot coals inside.[17]

The Industrial Revolution saw an increase in the availability of take-out food. By the early 20th Century, fish and chips was considered an "established institution" in Britain. The hamburger was introduced to America around this time. The diets of industrial workers were often poor, and these meals provided an "important component" to their nutrition.[18] In India, local businesses and cooperatives, had begun to supply workers in the city of Mumbai with tiffin boxes by the end of the 19th century.[19]

Business operation


A market stall in Thailand selling take-out food

Take-out food can be purchased from restaurants that also provide sit-down table service or from establishments specialising in food to be taken away.[20] Providing a take-out service often saves business operators having to spend money on things like cutlery, crockery and wages for servers and hosts; it also means that a large number of customers can be served in a relatively short amount of time, compared to a traditional dine-in restaurant.[21]

Although once popular in Europe and America,[5] street food has declined in popularity. In part, this can be attributed to a combination of the proliferation of specialized takeaway restaurants and legislation relating to health and safety.[5] Vendors selling street food are still common in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East,[22] with the annual turnover of street food vendors in Bangladesh and Thailand being described as particularly important to the local economy.[23]

Scooter used for pizza delivery in Hong Kong.

Many restaurants and take-out establishments have benefit from the invention of the car. Drive-throughs (also drive-thru[24]) allowed customers to order, purchase and receive their products without leaving their cars. The idea was pioneered in 1931 in a California fast food restaurant, Pig Stand Number 21. By 1988, 51% of McDonald's turnover was being generated by drive-throughs, with 31% of all US take-out turnover being generated by them by 1990.[25] Some take-out businesses offer food for delivery, which usually involves contacting a local business by telephone or online. Online ordering is available in some countries such as Australia, Canada, India, Brazil, Japan, the European Union and the United States, where some pizza chains offer online menu and ordering.[26] The industry has kept pace with technological developments since the 1980s beginning with the rise of the personal computer. Specialized computer software for the pizza delivery business helps determine the most efficient routes for carriers, track exact order and delivery times, manage calls and orders with PoS software, and other functions. Since 2008 GPS tracking technology has been used for real-time monitoring of delivery vehicles by customers over the Internet.[27]

Some businesses such as Pizza Pizza in Ontario, Canada will incorporate a guarantee to deliver within a predetermined period of time, or late deliveries will be free of charge.[28] For example, Domino's Pizza had a commercial campaign in the 1980s and early 1990s which promised "30 minutes or it's free". This was discontinued in the United States in 1993 due to the number of lawsuits arising from accidents caused by hurried delivery drivers.[29]


A typical take-out Parmo.

In general, take out dishes contain more than recommended amounts of saturated fat, salt and/or sugar and can contribute to diabetes and heart disease.

United Kingdom

The UK NHS website advises consumers to avoid or limit the amount eaten of products that are obviously deep fried or contain cream, also to have smaller portions especially if a dessert is included.[30] UK take-out suppliers are not legally required to state nutritional content. The UK Consumers' Association magazine, "Which?" tested a number of takeaway dishes in the UK and found some contained the total recommended daily amount of saturated fat or sugar, some nutritional information were misleading.


Take-out food is packaged in paper, paperboard, corrugated fiberboard, plastic, or foam food containers. One common container is the oyster pail, a folded, waxed or plastic coated, paperboard container. The oyster pail was quickly adopted, especially in the West, for Chinese food, "Chinese takeout".[31]

Corrugated fiberboard and foam containers are to some extent self-insulating, and could be used for a wide variety of foods including cooked rice, moist dishes. Thermal bags and other insulated shipping containers have increased ability to control temperatures during transit.

Aluminium containers are also popular for take-out packaging due to their low cost. These containers can often be customized with by being coated with unique designs, to develop or further a brand identity.[32] Expanded polystyrene is often used for hot drinks containers and food trays because it is lightweight and heat-absorbing.[33]

Disposable serviceware waste

Disposable chopsticks in a university cafeteria trash bin in Japan.

Packaging of fast food and take-out food is necessary for the customer but involves a significant amount of material that ends up in landfills, recycling, composting, or litter.[34] Fast-food foam food containers were the target of environmentalists in the U.S. and were largely replaced with paper wrappers among large restaurant chains.[35]

In 2002, Taiwan began taking action to reduce the use of disposable tableware at institutions and businesses, and to reduce the use of plastic bags. Yearly, the nation of 17.7 million people was producing 59,000 tons of disposable tableware waste and 105,000 tons of waste plastic bags, and increasing measures have been taken in the years since then to reduce the amount of waste.[36] In 2013 Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) banned outright the use of disposable tableware in the nation's 968 schools, government agencies and hospitals. The ban is expected to eliminate 2,600 metric tons of waste yearly.[37]

In Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, laws banning use of disposable food and drink containers at large scale events have been enacted. Such a ban has been in place in Munich, Germany since 1991, applying to all city facilities and events. This includes events of all sizes, including very large ones (Christmas market, Auer-Dult Faire, Oktoberfest and Munich City Marathon). For small events of a few hundred people, the city has arranged for a corporation to offer rental of crockery and dishwasher equipment. In part through this regulation, Munich reduced the waste generated by Oktoberfest, which attracts tens of thousands of people, from 11,000 metric tons in 1990 to 550 tons in 1999.[38]

China produces about 57 billion pairs of single-use chopsticks yearly, of which half are exported. About 45 percent are made from trees about 3.8 million of them mainly cotton wood, birch, and spruce, the remainder being made from bamboo. Japan uses about 24 billion pairs of these disposables per year, and globally the use is about 80 billion pairs are thrown away by an estimated 1.4 billion people. Reusable chopsticks in restaurants have a lifespan of 130 meals. In Japan, with disposable ones costing about 2 cents and reusable ones costing typically $1.17, the reusables better the $2.60 breakeven cost. Campaigns in several countries to reduce this waste are beginning to have some effect.[39][40]

See also


  1. 1 2 "take•away". Oxford University Press. Retrieved April 20, 2007.
  2. "Sunday Levity: Paradise Secured". The Acorn. Retrieved September 1, 2008. But we're only here for a take-away (or parcel, in local parlance).
  3. Smith, Andrew F., ed. (2007). The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 580. ISBN 9780195307962.
  4. Weiss Adamson, Melitta; Segan, Francine (eds.). Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl: An Encyclopedia. CT, USA: Greenwood Press. pp. 252–253. ISBN 9780313086892.
  5. 1 2 3 Harris, Stephen; Grigsby, Bryon L., eds. (2007). Misconceptions about the Middle Ages. London, UK: Routledge. p. 166. ISBN 9781135986674.
  6. Harper-Bill, Christopher, ed. (2005). Medieval East Anglia. Sussex, UK: The Boydell Press. p. 134. ISBN 9781843831518.
  7. Fredman Cernea, Ruth, ed. (2005). The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate. London, UK: University of Chicago Press. p. 181. ISBN 9780226100234.
  8. Mary Snodgrass - (September 27, 2004). Encyclopedia of Kitchen History. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  9. Mary Snodgrass (September 27, 2004). Encyclopedia of Kitchen History. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  10. Susan Evans. Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  11. Long Towell Long, Luis Alberto Vargas. Food Culture In Mexico. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  12. J. Pilcher (December 20, 2005). Food In World History. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  13. Ken Albala (May 25, 2011). Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia. Boo. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  14. Katherine Leonard Turner. Good Food for Little Money: Food and Cooking Among Urban Working-class ... Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  15. Artemis P. Simopoulos. Street Foods. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  16. African American Foodways: Explorations of History and Culture -. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  17. Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 1991: Public Eating : Proceedings. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  18. Harbottle, Lynn (2004). Food for Health, Food for Wealth: Ethnic and Gender Identities in British Iranian Community. New York, USA: Berghahn Books. p. 72. ISBN 9781571816344.
  19. Roncaglia, Sara (2013). Feeding the City: Work and Food Culture of the Mumbai Dabbawalas. London, UK: Open Book Publishers. pp. xvi. ISBN 9781909254008.
  20. Mason, Laura (2004). Food Culture in Great Britain. CT, USA: Greenwood Press. p. 170. ISBN 9780313327988.
  21. Gough, B; Gough, J (2008). FCS Hospitality Services L3. Cape Town, South Africa: Pearson Education South Africa. p. 203. ISBN 9781770251373.
  22. Heine, Peter (2004). Food Culture in the Near East, Middle East, and North Africa. CT, USA: Greenwood Press. p. 119. ISBN 9780313329562.
  23. Sethuraman, S. V., ed. (1992). The Urban Informal Sector in Asia: An Annotated Bibliography. Geneva, Switzerland: International Labour Organisation. p. 192. ISBN 9789221082590.
  24. "Drive-through or drive-thru". Collins Dictionary. n.d. Retrieved September 30, 2014.
  25. Sculle, Keith; Jakle, John (2002). Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age. Maryland, USA: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 61. ISBN 9780801869204.
  26. Kretzmann, David. "Why Domino's Digital Component Is Important". DailyFinance. Retrieved December 28, 2013.
  27. Marianne Kolbasuk McGee. "GPS Comes To High-Tech Pizza-Delivery Tracking", InformationWeek, February 1, 2008.
  28. "Pizza Pizza's Guarantee" (Commercial website). pizzapizza.ca. Retrieved December 7, 2007.
  29. "Jury award spurs Domino's to drop deadly policy". Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
  30. Healthier takeaways
  31. "Harvard Advocate poster with Chinese Take-out Carton". The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. March 17, 2008. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
  32. Paine, Frank (1995). The Packaging User's Handbook. Glasgow, UK: Blackie Academic & Professional. p. 287. ISBN 9780751401516.
  33. Hill, J. (2003). Excel HSC & Preliminary Senior Science. NSW, Australia: Pascal Press. p. 132. ISBN 9781741251166.
  34. Reducing Wasted Food & Packaging: A Guide for Food Services and Restaurants (PDF), EPA-909-K-14-002, US Environmental Protection Agency, retrieved March 9, 2015
  35. Some fast-food brands look beyond polystyrene, others embrace it, Plastics Today, Heather Caliendo, August 12, 2013
  36. Env. Research Foundation (undated). Taiwan's Plastics Ban.
  37. China Post. June 5, 2013. EPA to ban disposable cups from June 1.
  38. Pre-Waste EU. (undated). Ban on disposable food and drink containers at events in Munich, Germany (Pre-waste factsheet 99)
  39. New York Times. Reus October 24, 2011. Disposable Chopsticks Strip Asian Forests. By Rachel Nuwer.
  40. Ecopedia. 2013. How Wooden Chopsticks Are Killing Nature. By Alastair Shaw.
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