Does Hindu culture allow eating hotel food? I have heard that Swaminarayan and Brahma Kumaris say not to eat food at a hotel or restaurant. Why?
Yes in Hindu dharma its allowed to eat hotel food. And no restrictions for taking food outside. Hindu dharma is quite liberal and advocates personal feelings , thoughts , interest and free will. In Hindu culture food is considered sacred and termed as " BHARAMA" itself ( अन्न ब्रहम). Since ancient times and even today their is tradition (अन्न छत्रम) of giving food to whom it is needed. A lot of temples offering such service to needy since ancient times even today and will in future . A lot of students, travellers and other peoples were and is using this service. So its allowed to eat outside when its necessary.
Since hotels ,messes are relatively new concepts, Where one pays for food and is a public place. Considering the harmful effects of eating regularly in hotels and outside due to hygiene ,quality of food. In modern Hindu dharma its said to bring ill effects to health. Otherwise their is no such barrier in Hindu Dharma.
Eating food at a hotel itself is not considered a sin. However, I know that followers of the Swaminarayan Sect traditionally do eat eat hotel food as they do not know who has made the food. The Shikshapatri states that the devotees of Swaminarayan may not eat food prepared by people of the lower castes, therefore they avoid eating hotel food.