All You Can Eat

In all likelihood, over thirty years working in hospitality deems me incapable of objectively pondering “all you can eat” phenomena with anything less than contempt and bias. “All you can eat” is a mindset triggered by the suggestion of unrestricted consumption. From humble beginnings along the Las Vegas strip in the 40’s and 50’s, all you can eat became an integral facet of North American culture. All you can eat condoned gluttony, encouraged excess and banked on popularity. Quality mattered less than quantity, all you can eat fooled patrons by suggesting they controlled the dining out experience.

Fine and dandy, but here’s the problem – all you can eat culture has come to consider every edible display as all you can eat. Regardless of setting or demographic, despite common sense, decency or good manners – the moment an unrestricted table of food is displayed, is the moment “all you can eat” seizes the day.

A few days ago a client booked coffee, desserts and non alcoholic beverages to be served following a public lecture at Science World. No problem, 150 guests, service split between two stations, and if I do say so myself, stunning visual presentation. Who am I kidding? Within moments post lecture, long lines formed at each table. I watched the first thirty or so load plates with perilously high stacks of dessert bars.WTF! Do they think it’s a bottomless pit? Are they aware of how many people are lined up behind them? Did they consider a garbage bin full of “one bite taken” throw aways, while dozens go hungry?

One of my first ponders is titled “Is That A Hot Dog In Your Gucci?” Linked below for consideration –


4 thoughts on “All You Can Eat

  1. I’ve always hated the idea of all you can eat buffets, because of the sheer piggery and waste that pop their twin ugly heads up. However, with a buffet format, it’s hard to restrict greed isn’t it? If people serve themselves, you’ll laways get those selfish bastards.
    One thing that really gets my goat too is the ‘Chinese buffet.’ Speaking as one who used to be damned handy with a wok, I can tell you that the buffet is the complete antithesis of what Chinese cuisine is all about

  2. I’d best mind my p’s and q’s as I’ve been known to frequent such temples of gluttony. In spite of that I do hear what you’re saying!

    • Purposefully visiting a temple of gluttony is part of our culture – my husband and I regularly indulge at an all you can eat Indian buffet. My socks rot however when supposedly dignified cocktail receptions turn into stuff your face grab fests.My point being – context is everything.All you can eat culture instilled a mindset of unbridled consumption regardless of circumstance. People lay eyes on a table of food, immediately turning into voracious vultures. I see it at charity events, corporate receptions, university lunches, seminars, art shows – name any gathering of invited guests with hosted food/beverage, and I promise you a jaw dropping lesson in human nature. You would think courtesy dictates a measure of restraint. A little voice saying “hey, wait a minute – I didn’t pay for this, nor do I recall my invitation saying all you can eat”Not a chance! People see a table of food and descend like wolves.

      My goodness, I’m starting to rant. It’s likely unfair of me to expect people to understand “portioning”. Sigh.

      • Well, I think you have good reason to rant. You see a very different side of the public than I do.
        That said, as much as I sometimes like the gluttony aspect of available food choices with my personal medical issues I probably should not be indulging. So, my reason for being cautious is a bit different.

        It fascinates me how people take an open bar or an unlimited table as a gift-horse. I HAVE seen that kind of behavior and to me it’s kind of akin to the way customers will patronize Walmart and then complain because their local stores close up and their neighbors lose their jobs. People go to extremes when it comes to not wanting to spend more than they have to — even when that spending means that their neighbors (and hence their tax base) need jobs and a sustainable income.
        I think what’s at play is much more ‘basic’ than understanding portioning. And it’s a lot uglier too.

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