Secrets of the Buffet

Just In Time For The Holidays!

At an all-you-can-eat restaurant the husband came back to the table, his plate full for the fifth time. “Dear” exclaimed his wife, “Doesn’t it embarrass you that people have seen you go up to the buffet table five times?” “Not a bit,” replied the husband, “I just tell them I’m filling up the plate for you!”  Have you ever wondered how those all-you-can-eat places can possibly make any money?  Well, here are the secrets –

#1 Lower Overhead – Labour is a big cost factor for any restaurant.  But at a buffet, you are doing much of the work of a waitress (by looking after serving yourself).  And since the food items offered are basic, a professional chef does not need to be hired as far as preparation and presentation goes.

#2 Flexible Menu – Because buffets do not have a fixed menu like traditional restaurants, they can vary the items offered based upon what is in season (and so cheaper at the moment).  As well,  they can buy the seasonal items in bulk, lowering their costs even more.

#3 Computer Analysis – Buffet restaurants use special computer programs designed to keep track of just about everything concerning the food they serve – what is eaten and what is not eaten (based upon the day, the time, the season, the customer, etc.)  Also, what foods not taken one day can then be safely and with flavour reserved as part of the next day’s offering. (see back)

#4 Smaller Dishes – Companies that make dishes and cutlery for restaurants have a smaller line of products for buffet places.  Plates and bowls are smaller so you cannot fit as much food on or in, and forks and spoons are smaller so it takes you longer to eat.

#5 Drink Up – Buffet places really want you to drink up, a lot.  One, their profit margin on a drink order is around 90% (compared to 60% profit rate for the food).  And two, the more you drink, the fuller you get and the less room there is for their food.  And of course, whether it’s water or some other beverage, they like to keep the free refills coming.  In addition, most food items are extra-salted to more increase that thirst.

#6 Strategic Layout – Every buffet restaurant has basically the same table layout and that is not by accident.  At the front are the plentiful carbohydrate foods (potatoes, rice, pasta, vegetables) which are cheaper and more filling all in bigger bins and with larger serving spoons.  At the back are the sparser protein foods (meats and fishes) which are more expensive and less filling, all in smaller bins with smaller serving spoons.  The plan is that by the time you go from the front to the back, your plate  has so many carbs on it, there is little room for the proteins.
Buffets especially like to use tongs for the meats and fish, because they are harder to use and customers take less, embarrassed they are holding up the line.

#7 Surrounded Desserts – Because pies are expensive, they are often surrounded by smaller lesser costly  treats and fruits so you don’t take such a big piece of pie on your already smaller than the norm dessert plate.

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