On the surface, it seems like an all you can eat buffet would be a losing proposition. Some people can eat a lot, and one might think those people would eat up all the profits. The truth is, that there has been a lot of research on human behavior and food consumption. The restaurants also have a few tricks up their sleeve to manipulate that behavior, and those tricks could even be considered part of the buffet equipment needed to operate.
One thing many restaurants, have done is change the name to “all you care to eat” instead of “all you can eat.” This removes the challenge aspect, so people won’t necessarily think they need to prove just how much they could eat. An article in Psychology Today says research has shown people really do not change their eating habits at a buffet. There are exceptions, of course, but the restaurants play the averages.
Tricks of the trade
Restaurant owners use psychological tricks to keep people from mindless eating, and studies have long been an important piece of buffet equipment. There are also tricks to fill the customer up on cheaper and more profitable items, while still serving a reasonable amount of steak and lobster.
- Smaller plates: Buffett equipment for this type operation includes smaller than normal plates. Customers do eat less with smaller plates.
- Smaller portions: More costly items like steak are cut into smaller portions, and less of it is put on the menu at one time. Studies have shown customers will take one piece of meat, even though smaller, and won’t usually take two pieces.
- Placing portions: The steak and lobster are put on smaller plates, the servings are cut smaller, and the utensils are smaller. Cheaper foods like potatoes are most visible, easiest to reach and big spoons are used for serving.
- Drinks: Most buffets charge separately for the drinks, which have a larger profit margin. Free refills also encourage people to drink a lot while they eat, and this helps fill them up.
- Quality versus profit: Buffets can use cheaper cuts of meat, though still offer reasonable quality, to save some money. The trick is to find the balance that will keep people coming back and that will return a profit.
- Utensils: While customers are often offered fresh clean plates often, the eating utensils are not as freely distributed. Using the same fork over and over reduces how much people eat, studies have shown.
- More obvious tricks: Buffet owners also pay attention to what people eat and try to put out only what people want, which reduces waste. Restaurant owners can also change their menu quickly and easily to keep up with trends.