For people who care about their food

Buffet waste – who pays?

A large platter full of buffet food, left to go to wasteRegular Not Delia readers will know that I’m a big fan of buffets.  It’s a great opportunity to sample lots of different things without having to order a whole meal of something which might turn out not to be to your taste.  I usually just take one piece or a small spoonful to find out.

Similarly, I always take small portions on the basis that I can also go back for more if I want it.  Clearly not everyone thinks the same way.   As we were leaving a buffet in a top hotel recently, I was shocked to see the waste left on some of the tables.  The photo above shows not a feast for someone, but just their leftovers.  I thought it was so shameful, I took the photo just to show you.  And the staff member present said that wasn’t the worst by any means, but that these others had already been cleared away.

I was dumbfounded by this and asked, “Why do people take so much, only to leave it?”  Apparently it’s an attitude of “We’ve paid, so we can have what we want and who cares whether we waste it or not?”

Well, I care – on two counts.  One, it’s shameful to waste so much food.  And two, someone has to pay for it.  Wanton waste increases the hotelier’s or restaurateur’s costs. And who has to pay for it? The consumer.  Prices must go up to reflect the costs.



Some time ago Mr ND and I enjoyed a delicious buffet in Singapore. However, you had to beware of taking more than you could eat.  There were notices on prominent display, stating that all leftovers or waste would be charged at the rate of x per 100g.  Fair enough.  I’d like to see other hotels implement a similar policy.  Why not?  It reduces the waste, and ultimately reduces the cost to the more responsible consumer.

Another thing that annoys me about people’s bad behaviour at buffets is buffet theft –  but I’ll leave that for another day.

10 Responses to “Buffet waste – who pays?”

  1. Jessica

    I think charging for leftovers is a great idea! The waste at these places shocks me too. I’m not sure it would go down to well here in Canada….

    Can’t wait to hear about buffet theft.

  2. Mr Not Delia

    Waste is a particular problem in Singapore, of course. It’s a small, very heavily built-up island (plus a few tiny outlying ones), so where are they going to get rid of it? So it’s certainly in businesses’ interests to pass on their waste disposal costs to consumers in this very direct way.

  3. Not Delia

    Charging for leftovers is also a deterrent. It should stop people taking the attitude that they can bulldoze through the buffet taking everything in sight, whether or not they can or want to eat it.

    Buffet theft? I’ll get around to that one soon, Jessica.

  4. Buddyboy

    I too love buffets, and I too abhor the waste I see people creating at them The worst I have ever seen by far, and consistently, is in Las Vegas where some patrons seem intent on sounding their “They’ll make no money out of me” mantra. As you point out, ND, we all have to pay for their stupidity in the end.

    I have never seen the concept of pay for what you waste in action, but I’d sure like to see it tried. What a wonderful thing that any of us can afford to eat in an all you can eat restaurant buffet, but with that goes the tiny responsibility not to abuse the privilege. Some people can’t handle even that small amount of responsibility!

  5. Regeta

    I completely disagree. In the areas of America where buffets are the MOST popular, people also tend to waste tons upon tons of food. Buffets don’t cost >$6 either here.

    The Buffet owners obviously still make a very large profit, even with tons of food being wasted, or else they wouldn’t have a buffet in the first place.

    1) The prices are NOT higher to account for waste. They originally were in the beginning of the buffet business design, but now they are about competition. It does not matter if people waste food or not, because the price WONT lower because of the waste. Nor will it rise. Other factors influence this, such as competition among other buffet places. Prices are set, and they won’t lower.

    2) The food is wasted anyway. Do any of you hippies KNOW how much food is dumped out and WASTED every single day in the United States? Employees cannot take the food home, that is ILLEGAL. The food is destroyed, thrown into the garbage regardless if someone eats it or not.

    3) The amount of food one person wastes, doesn’t mean it’s the amount of food another person doesn’t even take. For example, a full family goes to a buffet. One or two might pig out, one or two might waste food and not eat, and one or two might barely eat anything. They all still pay. For every person wasting food, there is one who doesn’t even eat or take 50% what a normal person takes.

    4) Hypocrites. Everyone. You can have a fat America, or a wasteful America. You can’t have either. It is proven in research that the philosophy of “Finish your plate!” causes obesity in both children and adults. The idea of a buffet is to serve an enormous amount of food– more than the typical restaurant.

    If you want people to be skinny, they need to eat LESS than the normal servings of restaurants. Certainly not MORE!
    So the very essence of Buffet is unhealthy, not only fully supporting obesity, but supporting it on the FAR end of the spectrum. A normal serving restaurant encourages obesity. A buffet encourages that x2 or more.

    You have a choice. Support the waste of food and a healthy America that is not obese– or support anti-wage measures and a fat, unhealthy America.

    If the answer to both is “Take less of a portion.” then my reply is “Then Buffets should not exist.” as the food is lower quality, and NOT necessarily cheaper than what you could get elsewhere, for the same (or more) portion.

    I am disgusted at every person who supports buffets who are nasty to their customers for “wasting food” as if their costs reflect it. As if the food isn’t going to be thrown out into the garbage.

    And if the food isn’t thrown away? It is reused, which is not only disgusting and provides an EVEN LOWER quality of food NOT worth paying for, but also can become quite unhealthy or even illegal in some cases.

    The answer to that is obviously “The restaurant should make less food.” but what customer would go to a buffet who is “Always out” of food? They wouldn’t. They’d go to their competitor, who will supply excessive waste in exchange for profit.

    Why? Because there’s A LOT more to “waste” than you think, and America wastes infinitely more than you could ever fathom, yet you are neither disgusted nor knowledgeable about this. Hypocrites. And idiots. All of you.

  6. Regeta

    People are entitled to do whatever they want with their food.

    If I want to enter a restaurant, pay $44 for a premium steak, and then cut it up and throw it in the trash– I am fully entitled to do that.

    It is my money. It is my steak. It is my freedom.

    Buffets should expect people to eat a set amount. If they eat above that, it is fine because others will eat below that. This is part of the “all you can eat” process. If you don’t like it– don’t own a buffet, own a restaurant.

    Now, if people are literally wasting 4-10 plates without touching anything, obviously they are abusing the system, and should be escorted out.

    But if I enter a buffet and pay $9, and take one plate, and don’t eat anything on it– I am fully entitled to solely because I PAYED FOR IT. If I took 5 plates, that would be different.

    People do not have an “entitlement complex” because their children take 4 crab rangoons and only eat half of 1. Those children payed enough to eat 10+ crab rangoons and the restaurant will still make money off of them AND the parents.

    The profits of a restaurant are going to be profitable or else the restaurant would close. If it closes, it’s obviously doing something wrong, because customers who waste food are NOT the reason buffets close. They’re the reason buffets are profitable.

    You fail to realize that the cost of products is based on competition, not the consumer. Consumers will be consumers. And waste is not evil, it is a product of wealth. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as it doesn’t actually harm anyone. The problem is never in the consumer either, it is in the supplier. If the supplier didn’t supply waste, there wouldn’t be any waste.

    Regardless, all of this is about money, in which EVERYONE profits. A buffet still profits when it loses money because of some bad customers. Why? Because the business deals with thousands of customers, with some they exploit (who take very little but pay full price).

    If a Buffet Restaurant is going to charge for wasted food, they also need to give refunds for people who eat less than average.
    Wait…what? They would never do such a thing?
    That’s because they’re greedy, and just want money. They don’t care about the actual philosophy of a Buffet– nor should they! Buffets are incredibly unhealthy and violent towards anything good. The very concept of a Buffet equates to massive waste, yet no one complains about buffets existing– only the people that waste.

    You all are like the drug users who see other drug users throw away their drugs down the toilet over and over, not realizing it is hopeless to get off of the addiction. “Why don’t they just buy less drugs? They should manage inevitable suicide more carefully.”

    Unhealthy, fat asses… who are complaining about those fatter than them. Wow…and you think OTHERS are the ones with an entitlement complex? LOL….hypocrites.

    Waste is not waste when production is so high it MUST be consumed. Otherwise, the production will waste even more than what people waste, before it realizes it needs to stop production.

    Ugh… I want to live elsewhere than the United States. Rich people complaining about other Rich people. Rich people pretending they care about the poor and needy in other countries. As if the wasted food in America somehow equates to starving children in Africa being helped in ANY way.

    Laughable at best. Damn hippies… why not actually do something beneficial to the world, such as OPPOSE the entire concept of a Buffet, rather than DEFENDING them? You’re like Stalin complaining that Hitler kills too many people, but that it’s okay to be a genocidal tyrant– just in moderation.

  7. Mr Not Delia

    What a pity, Regeta. Some of the points you make are worthy of discussion, but you spoil them by a number of rash (and offensively expressed) assumptions:

    1) that we’re bleeding hearts;

    2) that we’re obese;

    3) that US “all-you-can-eat” buffets are the only kind of buffet there is;

    4) that we’re American.

    None of these assumptions is true.

    1) ND’s original posting makes no mention at all about starvation anywhere. It does, however, point out the adverse impacts that wasteful buffet customers’ actions have on non-wasteful customers.

    2) ND’s body mass index is towards the bottom end of the healthy range. For what it’s worth, mine’s teetering at the top end. Neither of us is anywhere near the clinically obese stage.

    3) Re-read ND’s posting and you’ll see that she was referring to a top hotel. It wasn’t in the US, the buffet cost a damn sight more than US$ 6 per head, and the quality of the ingredients was excellent.

    4) You might have got a clue from the domain name – . None of the people who have posted here are US citizens.

  8. Regeta

    Sorry, but I googled this under a lot of stress so I missed the .uk part.

    I just came back from a buffet myself, where I took a tiny spoonful of everything they had (1-3 bites worth) which isn’t my fault as I just wanted 1 bite’s worth, but sometimes you CANT get less than 3 bites worth bc of how the buffet spoons dispense the food.

    And it was disgusting. Nothing there was good. I tried everything.

    And then my girlfriend began to lecture me on small business managing and food waste, because I told her she didn’t have to finish her plate.

    Also, one of the reasons she can’t lose weight which is a big problem, is because she is obsessed with “not wasting anything” thinking somehow that money is everything in life, while I am nothing.

    She then began to just randomly insult me while I said nothing or chuckled at how ridiculous it was. She said I am an idiot, an a**hole, a spoiled rotten kid, and that I knew absoultely nothing about small business while she knew all of it and how it works.

    I asked her “It doesn’t matter if I finish this plate or not. I don’t want to, I don’t like it, the food here sucks, I dont care, I shouldn’t have to, and they don’t lose money on if I finished this plate or not. She argued and claimed they did lose money on it. So I said “So if I finish this plate right now, even though I ALREADY have it, they will gain money?” and she said yes. So I laughed. She then yelled at me saying not to laugh at her, and then she claimed that they might put the food I didnt eat back to save on money, but when I tried to tell her that is unhealthy and illegal, she wouldn’t have any of it and just began to insult me more.

    We were having a perfectly fine time until her obsession with not wasting food (which is ridiculous, and VERY disgusting sometimes, almost puke-worthy pig behavior licking the bowl/plate clean) kicked in and I politely asked her to control her obsession because she needs to control her own life and not let her problems control her.

    Yea, trying to help politely must have triggered her insecurities, because it was relentless the next 30 minutes, and then when we got home she locked herself in the bedroom and refused to speak to me all night. As if I did something wrong.

    It’s amazing the stress one can cause. I just recently got a job that pays very well just so I can relieve some of her stresses about money, doing it SOLELY for her. The result? She believes and yells at me in public, “All you ever do is think of yourself! You’re a selfish asshole!”

    I do nothing but sacrifice for this woman, and that is how I am treated. Like I am an idiot who knows nothing, is entirely spoiled for not wanting to eat disgusting food at a new place, and not supporting small business even though the business sucks and there’s a big reason why it hasn’t become big business (the food sucks, the price is ridiculous, and no one likes the place).

    So I apologize for the whole America bit and other things. It’s ridiculous.

  9. Mike K-H

    I feel for you, Regeta. It’s a while since I was in the US, but it sounds as if some things haven’t changed very much.

    Food wastage – from supermarkets as well as restaurants – is a problem which seems to be handled worse than it was. Although a lot of food is clearly not re-usable for humans, a lot of it is. However, ever-tightening regulations mean that it can no longer be redistributed. I know a guy with very hippy attitudes who drills open the padlocks on supermarket skips (dumpsters) and removes food that hasn’t even reachd its sell-by date. When a police officer accosted him, he dared him to arrest him – pointing out that he would make sure he got plenty of publicty. I wouldn’t do that, but I can understand his point of view.

  10. Not Delia

    Waste is a big problem for society.

    It’s a complex problem, much of it driven by the major retailers who increase production, force down prices, and encourage additional consumer demand. I’ll need to blog about that one of these days but it’s such a complex issue that it’s gonna take a lot of time to do properly.

    Re buffets, I don’t think you have to eat everything. All I was saying is to take the food in moderation – and go back if you want more. Some people just heap everything onto their plates and decide later whether or not they might like to eat it.

    If you want it, eat it. If you try it and don’t like it, leave it. If you don’t know if you’ll like something or not, then try a little bit, don’t heap your plate with it. That’s all.

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