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The characters order something arbitrary like salad or coffee and then leave before ever touching their order. You will likely not notice this unless you happen to be very hungry when it happens; then it will drive you up the wall.

This is due to The Law of Conservation of Detail as diners and restaurants are great places to stage a conversation between characters, but their eating isn't relevant to the plot. Of course, depending on the scene, it's possible all the eating simply takes place off camera. If there's a cut, and the food has been eaten afterwards, then that doesn't count for this trope. It's particularly revolting in works that also employ Food Porn.

Live-Action shows also have another problem to contend with: that being that food spoils easier in studio lighting. Therefore, most of the food used is a prop, unless characters are specifically meant to eat it. Equally obviously, if a scene requires multiple takes, you don't want the actors to be forced to continually stuff their faces, only to have to make them a brand new sandwich for the next take. Requiring the actors to eat the food can also create continuity problems in the event of retakes or editing.

Given the frequency of use and the universal distraction and disdain it seems to evoke from audiences, this is pretty much a Discredited Trope. See also Forgets to Eat, Late for School.

Examples of They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich include:


Anime & Manga

  • Subverted in Naruto. When Sasuke goes out to look for Naruto one morning in the Land of Waves arc, Sakura calls after him, saying that he hasn't touched his breakfast, but then looks and sees that he's already eaten without her noticing it.
  • The characters in Mahou Sensei Negima! tend to take their meals at the Chao Bao Zi or Starbooks. We rarely see them actually eat there (in vol. 3, the group has just ordered a round of coffees they left at the table).
  • Played with in Monster, where the characters do comment on Tenma's tendency to leave his food unfinished untouched.
  • A running gag in the Lupin the Third series where Zenigata is eating at a cafe when he notices Lupin and the gang, he leaves his food behind to chase after them.


Comics

  • There's a comic where Wolverine and Captain America meet in a little diner to exchange information, and Wolverine mentions that the place has great pie. The waitress shows up, and since Cap isn't bothering with the secret identity stuff -- his hood/mask is down, but he's got his scalemail under an open jacket -- she recognizes him, is impressed, and they talk a bit, then she gets their orders and bustles off. Wolverine scornfully says that Cap probably hasn't paid for a meal since he revealed his secret identity to the world. Before the food arrives there's some kind of alarm and both heroes run out of the diner, Cap throwing down several dollar bills as he does so. Then, as Wolverine's about to flag down a car, he scolds Cap about taking the time to pay for food they never got to eat. Cap, being Cap, ignores this.
    • Wolverine ends up doing this once. After spending weeks in the Canadian wilderness while being pursued by the vampire Bloodscream and the cyborg Cylla, he manages to reach a small town and immediately heads for the diner and orders a pile of burgers. He eats several before finding out that his motorcycle, which he had left at some gas station, has been delivered there. Then he runs out of the diner, throwing down enough money to cover the bill as he does so.
  • Mercury from X-Men regularly visits a local cafe and orders coffee even though she doesn't (and can't) drink it since her mutation transformed her into a piece of sapient living metal. She explains to X-23 that she likes the warmth of the coffee and more importantly, doing something normal like going out for coffee helps her feel normal.


Films -- Animation

  • Inverted with Beauty and the Beast as the castle performs a humongous production number about serving Belle dinner; unless she was stuffing her face every time the camera cut away, she only gets to taste a couple dishes with her finger and eat the cherry off the top of a pie.
    • Maybe the makers were too busy with the production number to even bother showing her eating.
    • It's sort of an unspoken rule in many musicals that you should just pretend the songs aren't part of the actual story. So while we're seeing the staff trot out all these dishes in front of Belle as they sing a grandiloquent, choreographed number about hospitality, in reality she's enjoying a quiet, satisfying meal as the staff wait in attendance.
      • The problem with this is that they are explicitly putting on a performance and Belle reacts accordingly.
        • Most likely, Belle tried some samples during the performance, then had a proper meal afterwards.
  • In Coraline, the Other Mother prepares a feast for Coraline, but she only takes one bite out of a chicken leg before it's replaced with a cake, of which she doesn't eat any, either. May be intentional, though, as the food in the other world is probably all fake.
    • A later scene shows a big meal left on the table for Coraline. We don't see how much of it she ate, but she ate at least some of it and burped.
      • There's another meal Coraline doesn't eat any of, and some popcorn, and a disgusting meal in the real world. However, the fact that Other Father is the only one to eat any of this is Foreshadowing to his true nature.
  • In Lilo and Stitch, the fat tourist never gets to eat his ice cream.
  • In Pinocchio while at Pleasure Island Pinocchio and Lampwick are seen eating an ice cream cone and a pie and a whole turkey respectively, once they discover the tent for "The Rough House" (where boys go to fight) they toss the food away after only a few bites each, probably thinking they would get more later since everything was free.
  • Remy of Ratatouille cooked at least three different dishes in the first half hour of the movie yet always got interrupted trying to eat them. Indeed, it's only well after then that he gets to eat anything at all, when Linguini notices he looks dazed and gives him a piece of cheese.


Films -- Live Action

  • In Grosse Pointe Blank, this occurs when Martin Blank and Grocer meet at a diner. After being a complete jackass to the waitress about wanting a plain eggwhite omelette, he drops the plate on the floor when it arrives to distract Grocer (they both have guns on each other under the table) and leaves.
  • Played straight in The 51st State, when Felix gives the traditional dish of fish and chips to Elmo who looks upon it with disgust, promptly throwing it out the car.
    • Man, is he gonna hate Scotland...
  • The Wraith: the Sheriff has probably a couple bites into the standard fast food meal when the local troublemakers start kicking off, and he has to ditch it on the road to follow them.
  • Defied in the movie Dirty Harry: just to show what a Badass Harry is, he refuses to give up his hot dog just because some guys are robbing a bank and noshes on it while engaging them in a gunfight.
  • In a moment of Fridge Brilliance becomes a plot point in Run Fatboy Run when Dennis eschews the spaghetti & bolognese given to him despite being informed it would help, cue his running performance (admittedly not pacing himself at the start probably contributed as well).
  • In Home Alone, Kevin makes a nice big bowl of hot macaroni and cheese as a Christmas meal. He has just enough time to pick up his knife and fork before the robbers show up. He leaves the meal on the table and never touches it.
  • Averted, in the Twilight movie. Some hard core fans were annoyed when they saw members of the Non-Eater Cullen Clan chewing in the lunch room scenes. It's believed that real fries were on the table, and some of the actors got hungry.
    • Were they seen actually putting food in their mouths? It would make sense for vampires to at least pretend to chew, if they're spending lunchtime in public.
  • In I Robot, Del Spooner accepts a cup of coffee, which he even prepares by liberally spooning sugar into. At the end of his visit, he thanks his host for the coffee, and leaves without having taken a sip.
  • The actor for Pansy Parkinson from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince once said in a magazine article that every new take they did of the Slug Club scene, she got a new piece of chocolate cake on her plate she could eat.
  • Used comically in Our Man Flint, who goes to Marseilles and a series of restaurants, ordering bouillabaise to find a specific mix of ingredients he found as a clue - he repeatedly takes one spoon's worth, sometimes just smelling it, and asks for the check.
  • Accidentally averted by Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas: during the dinner scene the first night they're at the Inn, Clooney's character is the only one who visibly eats anything. In the commentary track for the DVD release, Clooney admits she was still inexperienced enough as an actress that she didn't realize she wasn't supposed to really eat the food on the table -- which was genuine and edible -- and ended up stuffing herself overfull during the retakes and different angle shots in order to maintain continuity.

Literature

  • Deliberately played straight with Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat. The title character states that he does this deliberately with tea and coffee because he likes the way the warm beverage feels. Naturally, being a vampire, he can't actually drink it anyway, so it's always wasted.
  • Same thing happens in Christopher Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends. Jody, a newly-turned vampire, has realized her body will automatically reject food and drink. So when she has dinner with Tommy, she only orders a coffee and just spends the meal "contemplating" it.
  • In Flowers for Algernon, Charlie pays for a meal without eating it after seeing how the restaurant treats a slow busboy.
  • This happens all the time in American Psycho. A lot of the action takes place in high-class restaurants, where course after course is brought and usually left untouched. This is used to emphasize the extremely materialistic and wasteful natures of the characters.
  • In Twilight, Bella learns that the Cullens buy lunch every day to put up appearances of being human, and then toss said lunches. She even watches Alice dump her entire lunch uneaten. Why the vampires bother is a mystery, since anyone watching them even casually--as Bella does--would see that they never eat their lunches anyway.
  • Near the end of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, we see Silas -- whose exact nature is strongly hinted at, but never specified -- and Bod in a restaurant together. Bod has pizza; Silas orders a green salad which he pushes around with his fork, and a glass of water with which he moistens his lips.
  • In Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington there's a scene where several of Honor's senior officers look on in wonder as she builds a rather impressive sandwich--that she gets to take one bite from before the general quarters alarm sounds, sending them all rushing off to their action stations, and leaving the sandwich dumped on the floor.


Live Action TV

  • Skins have a scene where the resident anorexic teenager shows how she manages to go through a family-meal without taking a single bite. It was as impressive as it was scary.
  • On House, a non-food service example tends to occur, the characters are constantly having lunch at work. And by "having lunch at work", mostly meaning "getting out food and sitting in front of it while it gets cold, at work".
    • And Wilson still has the nerve to get pissed when House steals his lunch.
  • This appears to happen multiple times on the Gilmore Girls, the prime offenders usually being the titular girls at Luke's diner no less!
  • I don't care how legen-(wait for it...)-dary that burger was, it does not make it a justified example to abandon not once but twice a burger meal in two separate locations, taking only one or two bites and not paying for them, hell one even gave a "burgasm". No surprise that out of all them Robin was the only real objector (admittedly she was starving but let's not quibble over details like that), for shame. How I Met Your Mother episode "The Best Burger in New York City".
    • I'm pretty sure they paid for them. Towards the end of the episode they talk about being out of money because they paid for so many burgers, and you see on at least one occasion the characters dropping cash on the table.
    • To be fair, in the college flashbacks, Ted and Marshall tend put their "sandwiches" to good use.
  • In the second-to-last episode of season 3 of The Wire, although Theresa had ordered for him in advance, McNulty leaves without touching the glass of wine in front of him, yes he sussed out what was going on and couldn't stay but it's not like he's ever been averse to drinking before, yes he has to drive home but that has never stopped him before, yes he was going through a self destructive phase but... should stop now.
  • An inversion on Lost: one of Kate's flashbacks involves her enlisting the help of a con woman in order to see her mother, who works at a diner. The con woman is sitting at the diner and orders a bowl of chili, which she intentionally spills all over Kate's mother when she brings it to her so that she would have to go into the back to clean up, where Kate was waiting for her.
  • In one episode of the Spanish police soap Los Hombres De Paco, after Curtis interrupts lunch between Pepa and Silvia by deciding to sit down with them subsequently ordering salad, takes one fork stabful of it, eats it then dabs his mouth with the paper towel and leaves after saying his piece to the two women. Bonus points for having the nerve to recommend it and presumably leaving them with the bill!
  • Every time there's a spread of delectable dishes in Historical Fiction television shows and movies that of Ancient China, it's got to be the same set of props rotated around. The characters always just pick at the dishes and never eat a damn thing.
    • Given what Ancient Chinese cuisine counted as edible -- rat without ketchup, for example -- let's not complain too much.
  • Usually averted in Law and Order: When the regular characters are interrupted while eating, either they'll blow off the interuptee and go back to their meal or the next scene will show them at their workstations, eating said food from take-out cartons.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager, Janeway's replicator flubs, and she can't have her daily coffee. Neelix offers her a "better-than-coffee substitute" (which has the viscosity of honey), but a communicator call pulls her away before she can have a sip. Subverted as she is relieved that she was called away.

 Chakotay: (over the comm) Bridge to Captain Janeway.

Janeway: I'm on my way!

Chakotay: (once Janeway arrives on the bridge) There was no need for you to come to the bridge.

Janeway: Yes, there was.

  • In Star Trek: Enterprise, one episode featured Trip as acting captain, who takes advantage of the generosity that he is able to dole out by inviting two crew members to dinner in the captain's dining room. All three of them are presented with their favorite dishes, which remain untouched when an unexpected incident requires Trip's attention. As a starship captain, you are never off duty...
  • Invoked on one episode of NCIS where Gibbs throws DiNozzo's food out of the window of a moving car while he's eating it as "punishment" for not thinking hard enough about the case. Yeah, hunger and anger will really help your agents to focus, Gibbs....
  • A running gag on Power Rangers RPM is that Flynn will prepare a smoothie, but never get to finish/drink without being called into duty.
  • Appears a number of times in Get Smart, usually when Max is eating lunch with a KAOS/double agent, or the target of an assassination. Often subverted in the latter case.
  • The first Home and Away DVD showed us why this happened: The food was all props to make the fridges appear stocked. It is, however, especially noticeable thanks to the fact that the modern Summer Bay includes a diner and a restaurant (that used to be a bar).
  • The West Wing has this trope in spades, usually because they have "lunch meetings" that only last, for plot purposes, about four minutes. One particularly egregious example had Toby ordering, the people he was talking to ordering, the people he was talking to telling him important information, and Toby leaving immediately. What about your steak, Toby!
  • Subverted in one episode of Seven Days. A victim of the week must be prevented from eating his poisoned sandwich (several times, thanks to the Groundhog Day Loop). This requires far more elaborate schemes than what most of this page would imply. A later iteration of the loop has a now-deranged Parker simply taking his gun out and demanding that the victim put down his sandwich. He doesn't want to. Several death threats to multiple people later, the victim finally agrees to abandon his meal.
  • Kamen Rider Faiz has the main characters do this a lot in the beginning. Partially justified for the main character, who is "cat-tongued" and has to blow on his food for a while before he deems it cool enough to eat. They usually pay, though.
  • Twin Peaks has a surprisingly infamous example. Drink your damn soda, Maddie. It apparently bugs the hell out of the fans.
  • The Story of Tracy Beaker, where every meal turns into a food fight. Except one incredibly satisfying scene in S4 E4, where all the kids eat burgers with mayonnaise and cheese and ketchup.
  • Both subverted and played straight in Bones, as the characters often seem to eat the food they order, whether coffee or hot dogs, (in fact, John Francis Dailey sometimes has trouble with eating berries and getting them in his teeth, but occasionally seem to run in and out of the Royal Diner at random without eating what they order, ordering anything, or waiting for their order to arrive, often ending with a completely different person sitting at the table than the ones who originally sat down to order.
  • Happens often in the earlier episodes of Two and A Half Men, "Big Eater" Jake nearly always leaves most of his food, once even leaving an entire hamburger.


Tabletop Games

  • Similar to the above Anne Rice example, this is common for vampires in both Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem. Vampiric digestive systems can only process blood, so they can't eat at formal events. Part of the Masquerade is learning the slight-of-hand needed to keep people from noticing you never eat -- and a suggestion for botching a social roll in Vampire: The Masquerade was for the other guests to realize exactly that.
    • At least in Vampire: The Masquerade, some vampires have the ability to keep human food down for a couple hours, though they would eventually have to vomit it back up. Some Nosferatu with this ability even managed to weaponize it by projectile vomiting on their enemies.
    • One story has the vampire narrator mentioning a disgusting alcoholic beverage called a Rusty Nail that the mayor's ghoul servant favors. Later on the ghoul becomes a vampire himself. The narrator still pours him a Rusty Nail when he arrives, as a sentimental gesture, so he can hold it and still feel human.


Theater

  • In the British comedy sketch Dinner for One, the butler James serves her mistress Miss Sophie a plate of Mulligatawny soup, chicken, North Sea haddock, and finally some fruit, all of which comes with an appropriate wine. All this goes so fast on stage, however, that Miss Sophie barely gets to eat anything, and James carries most of it away again (and sends some of it flying when he trips over the tiger hat). Also, Miss Sophie doesn't drink nearly as much as James, but then again, drinking half as much as James may already be hazardous, for a 90-year-old lady no less.


Video Games

  • When you first meet Zaalbar in Knights of the Old Republic, he's waiting for his food to get in. Mission orders him to come stand up for her when she gets bullied by a couple of Black Vulkars. Zaalbar complains about how his food just showed up, but does it anyway. Then, after a brief conversation with the main character, Mission tells Zaalbar they're leaving. When Zaalbar complains that he still hasn't gotten to eat his food yet, Mission just brushes him off and says they'll get something to eat at the Hidden Bek base.
  • In Return to Castle Wolfenstein, you quite often end up interrupting nazis (especially officers) while they've got piping hot meals on their tables. This is to your advantage, for both in-character and gameplay reasons.
  • In The Sims series, serving a group meal will always result in 8 or so servings, no matter how many people actually live in the house. Leftover food WILL need to be thrown away before it goes bad. Thankfully one of the later expansions for The Sims 2 allows you to put the leftover food in the fridge and eat it later.


Web Comics

  • In Megatokyo, this is done repeatedly with Miho Tohya's food, which fueled speculation about what exactly she is. It was practically a reveal when she was first shown to actually take a bite of something, six years into the comic's run.
    • It's equally strange that Ping--who is a robot with a literally photographic memory--doesn't notice Miho's untouched cake, but Piro (the notoriously oblivious) does.
  • Dead Winter: Monday and Liz meet while Liz is still a waitress, but Monday spots some of his adversaries outside and disappears without eating...or paying. Liz eventually gets payback.


Western Animation

  • In the Thanksgiving episode of The Simpsons, it is both played straight out loud and averted in a home-based example. Mr. Burns is seated in front of a spread for easily a dozen people or more, yet only has a few slices of turkey since he's saving room for Smithers' pumpkin pie.
  • In the Futurama episode "Roswell That Ends Well", Fry and his suppose-to-be-Grandfather order a coffee and meal respectively from Fry's will-be-Grandma, but after panicking over the potential hazards inherent in the diner Fry and co. run out before ever receiving their order. Notable for showing the will-be-Grandma's upset reaction to this.
    • However, this trope has nothing at all to do with...

 Hermes: MY MANWICH!!

  • Happens occasionally in the later seasons of Daria at the local pizza place, what with Daria stealing Tom from Jane. This leads to a good amount of arguing and untouched pizza.
    • On one occasion Daria is left sitting there alone and depressed. She takes her drink and pours it on top of her pizza, having clearly lost her appetite.
  • Subverted in a Kids in The Hall sketch: two policemen are eating in a diner when they recognize three other customers as wanted criminals, who realize that they've been spotted. They immediately start racing to finish their meals before beginning the chase.
  • Happened a couple of times in Barbie and the Diamond Castle. Especially annoying when the heroines sing for their supper, supposedly starving, yet leave when mildly harassed by a pair of Lounge Lizard twins, without even touching their food.
  • Occasionally happens in Code Lyoko. Most notably, the heroes sometimes order coffee from the machine and end up throwing it away due to an emergency.
    • Odd doesn't like this, though, and once spends a whole episode complaining that he didn't have time to eat.
  • Happens in the Opening Credits of The Real Ghostbusters. Winston is shown about to enjoy a burger when the alarm rings, and he drops it to get to work, instead of, oh, I dunno, taking it with him? However, the burger doesn't go completely to waste: Slimer gobbles it up.
    • When the alarm rings, you drop whatever you're doing to answer it.
  • In The Chipmunk Adventure, a Running Gag has Theodore ordering food, only to be pulled away for some reason before he can eat it.
  • In Bob's Burgers, Bob talks a bank robber down to giving himself up on the condition that he goes to Bob's restaurant across the street and tries one of his burgers. After awkwardly manoeuvring a huddle of hostages across the road, the guy has about one small bite of a burger, does a lot of talking, and then makes a run for it.


Real Life

  • Incidentally, can easily be Truth in Television for business lunches and interviews held during a lunch. You never want to get caught with your mouth full of food when asked a question, you can't eat hurriedly (not proper), and you can't hold up everyone else while you finish the current course. Very painful for people who were brought up that throwing away food was one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
    • Unless you're lucky enough to get one of those bosses or clients that says "Alright, now let's eat, huh?" once the important stuff is finished.
    • Whatever happened to the "three martini lunch" meeting?
    • Accountability. Nowadays, you'll have to make to the executive level for those.
    • Maybe in the 1950s. Today it's generally frowned upon by most businesses for their employees (including executives) to drink 6oz of spirits in one sitting, then go back to work.
  • This happens all the time. It's called breakfast and a clock.
  • Pro-Ana, Just Pro-Ana.
  • Happens on a fairly regular basis for people in jobs that require you to be 'on duty' your entire shift, such as police, security guards, firefighters, etc.
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