Why All You Can Eat Buffets Aren’t Good Value For Money

All you can eat buffets are becoming one of the most popular dining experiences in the UK.  New restaurants are popping up all over the UK, with almost ever major town and city offering at least one unlimited dining experience.

All You Can Eat Buffets
All you can eat buffets are very popular in the UK

The History Of All You Can Eat

The concept is one which first appeared in the USA in the 1930’s. In working class areas all you can eat buffets proved very popular with families.  The idea was also carried into the popular casino hotels of Las Vegas and The Strip.  Catering for 1000’s of guests was far easier by buffet than preparing thousands of individuall meals.  Nowadays chains of all you can eat buffets such as Golden Corral now boast over 450 restaurants in the USA.  In the UK, Taybarns, Cosmo and Jimmys World are leading all you can eat buffet chains.


The Rise Of The World Buffet

So why is the idea of the all you can eat so popular?  Well aside from the obvious, being able to eat as much as you want without limit, the buffet concept also allows diners to sample foods they would not normally try.  In the UK, most buffet restaurants offer various cuisines including Chinese, Indian, English, Italian and Mexican.  Some also offer live cooking stations where chefs will prepare food specially to order.  There may also be a sushi bar, chocolate fountain and unlimited ice cream depending on the restaurant.

The Economics Behind the Concept

Restaurant owners know that for every person who gets full value out of a buffet, there are at least another five people who won’t.  This is what has allowed the concept to experience such amazing growth.  Even for those who do manage to eat their money’s worth, the restaurants know that the mark up on drinks and other sundries will make up the short fall.


If we apply the rule of thirds, which is often used in restaurant economics, 1/3 of the cost of the meal will be spent on food.  With the average buffet costing between £5.99 (dinnertime) and £16.99 (evening) thats between £2 and £5.50 food per person at raw cost. When you consider that most buffet meals work out at pennies per person at cost price, you can see why very few all you can eat buffets actually go out of business.

How Buffets Entice You To Eat The Cheapest Food First

Every buffet is designed so that diners eat the cheapest food first.  This means that cheap carb heavy items such as bread, pasta and potato products are often the first items you will see.  Not only are these cheap for the restaurant to produce, they also fill you up quickly making you eat less overall.


More expensive cuts of meat are always at the end, or on the chefs stations. Buffets know that many people are unwilling (or embarrassed) to queue for these stations so will miss out on premium products.

How To Get Value For Money From An All You Can Eat Buffet

They may be fun but they are not an economical dining experience!  Here are some tips to help you make the most of your money.


  • Don’t starve yourself before you go.  Whilst you may think this will help you to eat more, it actually shrinks the stomach.  This will mean you feel fuller sooner.
  • Don’t fill up on fizzy drinks.  These will fill the stomach with gas leaving less room for food.
  • Ignore the starchy, carb laden foods at the start.
    Head for the end of the buffet or the cooking stations for the best cuts of meat.
  • Remember that afternoon sessions may be much cheaper than evening sessions but the choice of food will be limited
  • Check out local vouchers and deals.  You can often find money saving offers for buffets.
  • Shop around.  Try to find the best deals in your area

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