“Pay $X, and you can eat as much as you want!”
Doesn’t it seem like such a good deal? Well, that’s assuming you have a massive appetite like I do.
Let’s be honest here. I’m sure none of you will go for a buffet unless you are sure you can eat your money’s worth, right?
But if that’s the case, won’t buffet restaurants go bankrupt with so many gluttons like us lining up daily?
Look at how many buffet restaurants are still standing after operating for so many years.
So what is their secret? Let’s find out now!
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Tips for Eating Your Money’s Worth at a Buffet
Before we go straight into the tips for eating your money’s worth at a buffet, we’ll talk about how buffets avoid losses even though they serve so much food daily.
For those who want to jump straight into the buffet hacks, just click here.
How Does a Buffet Make Money?
Scrimping On The Staff
Unlike in a typical restaurant, a buffet restaurant gets to save a lot on hiring the kitchen and service crew.
As buffets are generally self-service, it only makes sense that you need fewer people waiting on tables since the customers can pick out what they want.
Furthermore, since the food is cooked in large batches, buffet restaurants won’t need as many cooks as a restaurant does.
Therefore, the overhead costs of buffet restaurants are a lot lower than those of la carte restaurants out there.
Bulk Ingredients For Bulky Savings
Buffet restaurants try to cut their ingredient costs as much as possible.
Hence, many of them provide dishes that tend to be more filling, such as carbs like rice or pasta.
Even the meats used in buffet restaurants are the cheaper cuts that the restaurant saves by getting bulk amounts.
By getting the ingredients in bulk, restaurants can save on food costs.
Filling Up Your Plates Early
Did you know that restaurants have a strategic layout planned?
Firstly, the cheaper, more filling items will be presented to you at the front of the array of food in a buffet.
Next, the crockery provided, such as plates and/or bowls, will usually be smaller.
Lastly, the serving utensils in the cheaper items will be made for scooping large amounts of food, whereas those used for the expensive items will be geared towards picking up smaller portions.
With all these strategies in play, the restaurants will make you fill up your plate with the cheaper items.
By the time you get to the expensive items, you will have a full plate, and it’ll be harder to pile on the good stuff on your plate.
Smaller Portions, Smaller Losses
Have you ever gone to a hotel buffet where there’s a chef who carves the meat right in front of you?
Another trick buffet places use to cut their losses is by minimising the portions of expensive items being given out.
In the case of a live carving station, it gets awkward when you head over multiple times, and you see the same chef giving you a judging look.
Even without a live carving station, certain items will have smaller portions laid out on the table.
You might think, “if that’s the case, why don’t I grab more?”
Surprisingly enough, most people still take one portion at a time and because making multiple rounds can get annoying, they ultimately end up eating less.
Time’s Up, Hand In Your Bills
Notice how so many buffets enforce a time limit when you’re eating?
Of course, it can be explained as the buffets catering to a large number of people in the rush hours, but is it really true?
Having a time limit ensures that the people eating do not have enough time to eat as much as possible.
Furthermore, rushing to eat as much as possible causes the diners to feel full quickly.
This tactic is useful in buffets like Korean Barbeques where diners cook their own food since it limits the diners’ time to eat as they have to wait for their food to cook.
Making Sure They Feed The Right Crowd
So you must be wondering, won’t the restaurant make losses when people come in with the idea of beating the buffet?
Surprisingly enough, that won’t be the case.
Let’s assume there are three types of diners at a buffet:
- Diner A: The typical diner eats a balanced mix of everything offered at a buffet.
- Diner B: Who falls for the restaurant’s tricks and fills up early on carbs and cheap items.
- Diner C: Who comes in with the idea of beating the buffet and only takes the high priced items.
Assuming there is an equal mix of all three types of diners, it all comes down to what is offered at the buffet.
Using an example of a Japanese buffet that costs about $40, we break down the costs of what is being eaten.
|Food Item (estimated value)||Diner A||Diner B||Diner C|
|Vegetable Stir Fry ($0.50/serving)||1||2||0|
|Salmon Sashimi ($1.50/serving)||2||0||5|
|Other Sashimi ($2.50/serving)||2||0||5|
|Tori Karaage ($1/serving)||2||3||0|
|Wagyu Beef ($8/serving)||2||0||3|
|Cost of food eaten||$33||$16||$47|
Since most items offered at a buffet tend to be the cheaper and more filling food items, it only makes sense that the buffet will still earn a profit even with people like Diner C.
Because the other diners are eating less than the amount they paid for, they cover the losses incurred by the restaurant from people beating the buffet.
If the restaurant is lucky enough, a single Diner B can already cover the losses incurred from more than 3 Diner Cs.
This brings us to the main reason why this article exists.
How to Eat Your Money’s Worth at a Buffet
With that in mind, you’re probably wondering how you can beat the buffet (or at least eat your money’s worth).
Because we’re all about making your food budget worth it, we have compiled this list of tips you can follow if you want to beat a buffet:
Hydrating is Important
The trick to beating a buffet is to start even before you go to the restaurant.
Remember to keep yourself hydrated one day before your buffet meal.
This ensures that your stomach will be stretched, which means more room for food!
Do note not to drink too much water before your meal, or you might fill yourself up, which you want to avoid.
You’re Not Going There to Diet
Contrary to popular belief, skipping meals before a buffet does NOT help you eat more.
In fact, what skipping a meal does is that it causes your stomach to close up before the meal, which ends up having the reverse effect of what you originally intended.
As a matter of fact, eating a full meal with easy to digest food helps you eat more during a buffet.
Since all the food from your last meal would have been digested, you will have space for the buffet goodies.
Dressing For The Occasion
Always go for loose clothing when you’re eating at a buffet!
Wearing form-fitting clothes or skinny jeans will make you feel uncomfortable the more you eat at a buffet.
So dress in loose and comfortable clothing, something like pants with elastic bands are definitely preferred for meals like this.
Let your stomach go free, so you can go for all the free-flow food!
A Proper Start Decides Everything
Once you’re at the buffet restaurant, knowing what food to eat will ensure you can eat more during your meal.
Do NOT start with heavy items, such as rice or noodles, as these will fill you up before you get to the expensive items.
Start with a small salad or some finger foods to help whet that appetite, or go directly into the expensive stuff like the steak or shrimp to eat your money’s worth.
Remember that starting with the right food will decide whether or not you’re getting your money’s worth out of the meal.
Buffets Have Strategies, So Should You
Buffets are strategic in their planning to ensure you don’t get the most out of them, so why not have your own strategy?
Before going to the buffets, know what is on their menu and what items you want to go for.
Even among all the meat items, you need to know which expensive ones you should be looking out for.
Go straight for the expensive items first and fill your plate with them.
Only decide if you have space for the cheaper items you want to try out after getting one round of the higher-priced items.
Slow and Steady Gets Your Worth
One mistake diners always make is thinking, “if I eat faster, I can get more food quickly”.
However, gorging on your food will make you feel bloated quickly, and you won’t be able to eat as much if that’s the case.
The secret to why competitive eaters can eat so much is because they eat slowly and pace themselves while they eat.
So give yourself time to chew and rest a bit so the food can properly go down before you go for seconds.
No Shame in Eating What You Paid For
You’re paying for all of this, so just eat it!
There is no sense in worrying about the judgemental looks the chef at the carving station is giving you when you ask for more or go for extra rounds.
Don’t be afraid to fill your plate with your favourite items. If the portions are too small, just grab a few at once!
If you are going to pay the full price of the buffet, don’t be afraid to go for the food you really want to eat.
“Green Solutions” Help Keep You Going
I know, I know, vegetables are cheap, and you shouldn’t fill up on them. (Totally not because you hate veggies)
Turns out, when you’re having a meal filled with heavy, greasy meats, having a few slices of lettuce helps cleanse some of that grease and lets you eat more food at a buffet.
No need to grab a whole plate full of them, just a few slices to keep yourself going will do!
Talk about “sustainable solutions” while you’re eating a buffet, eh?
Now that you know all the tricks and secrets, make sure you eat your money’s worth the next time you’re at a buffet meal!
Planning to bring a few Muslim friends for a good meal? Check out this list of halal buffets!
Going for a date? Impress them by bringing them to one of these fancy, romantic restaurants!
Bon voyage and bon appetit!