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The Economics of All-You-Can-Eat Buffets

A buffet line can be tempting, and they are particularly handy when trying to expose young children to a variety of foods, but there comes a time when you have to ask yourself "Can I really eat $20 worth of food in one sitting?" A lot of people take an all-you-can-eat offer as a challenge, and it's a wonder that the restaurant can make any money at all. You better believe they have the numbers and risks down to a science. For example, they save on staffing compared to a full-service restaurant.

Self-service allows a buffet to bypass a wait staff, and all-you-can-eat dishes (which are generally less complex and prepped in enormous batches) can be made by a “skeleton crew” of line cooks.

“At a typical restaurant, a cook can service 25 customers per hour — and that’s at best,” says Joe Ericsson, a managing partner at the food consultancy Restaurant Owner. “In the same amount of time, a single buffet cook might be able to prep enough food for 200 people.”

Because margins are so slim, buffets rely on high foot traffic: At Golden Corral, a buffet chain with 498 locations in 42 states, dining floors are 5k-square-feet and seat 475 people. On a typical Saturday, it’s not uncommon for 900 diners to come through the door.

The amount of food served per customer is also broken down, with diners categorized by how profitable they are. Read the statistics of how buffets make money at the Hustle. -via Damn Interesting

(Image credit: Zachary Crockett/The Hustle)


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I find Chinese buffets worth the money as I get the veggies I need and love the yummy sauces on the assorted chicken dishes. And yes, I am tempted to hog any Crab Rangoons that may be among the offerings!
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The tough part is finding one that serves food with quality good enough to make me want to come back. I'll go with friends, but it better be one with good food or I'll just stay home.
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