In the US, the country responsible for the buffet, the name of these establishments is very explicit: ALL YOU CAN EAT. As stated on the name, you have an “everything you can eat” menu at your disposal. But, is there a limit to everything?
The truth is, that generally, it’s narrower than most think, and this is the basis of the buffet business. The offer is tempting, and we keep falling like flies when we encounter one of these, but everyone gets filled up sooner or later.
And the numbers never lie. Statistics tell that for every, let’s call him a “Homer Simpson” who is a person who visits the business and consumes food above the restaurant’s cost, there are four people, who will be called “Marge Simpson”, Marges are persons who consume an amount way far below the costs.
The rest of it, is pure marketing and is based on what is known in microeconomics as “insatiable principle“: If for the same cost you can have more, then you want to have more. Why pay 15 bucks for one sushi serving if you can have infinite sushi for the same price?
But, truth to be told, sushi on the free buffets is horrific, to say the least. But it’s something that most people don’t value. And there lies the core business of these establishments: everyone knows that an open bar is sloppy, with a very low-quality standard, but it’s an open bar, and more is better, right?
The Limits of The Limitless Food
It’s the small print that protects these establishments from becoming a ruinous business. In general, all rules revolve around a golden rule, present in all buffets: you can’t take more food if you don’t finish what you already have.
Something that tends to add a time limit (you can’t occupy a table without eating anything between lunch and dinner, for example, something more than one has tried) and the prohibition to take food out of the establishment is carved in stone, can you imagine the disaster if people could take out food from an open bar?
These rules are necessary to limit one of the biggest problems of this type of business: food waste, which can be astronomical, and very negatively affect restaurant accounts, and also, let’s think about the feeding problem in third-world countries, it seems almost evil to abuse the privilege of being able to eat until you literally can’t.
Normally, the monitoring of these rules, which exist in absolutely every buffet around the globe, is informal: the waiter, chef or even the manager will tell you something (mostly privately) if you have too many leftovers on your plate and keep on taking food.
But there are establishments that go further and charge a fee for all the food that is left on your dish when you ask for the bill. But even then, not every establishment that you go will be able to get rid of a customer determined to take the limits, to the limit.