How all-you-can-eat buffets trick you into eating less food

Jason Cochran


In presenting the ongoing case that America is turning into latter-day Rome, I present the all-you-can-eat buffet. Shamefully wasteful? Possibly, especially when the leftovers are thrown away. Horrifyingly indulgent? To a European, maybe. But in a country where we shield our children from actual porn, the typical endless buffet is one borderline bacchanalian orgy that we can confidently call family-friendly.

As grocery prices spike, there's no better time to acquaint yourself with the basic principles for squeezing every smidgen of value from your next buffet sitting. One of the prime ways to maximize your buffet buck is go for lunch. It's always a few dollars cheaper than dinner (at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, lunch can be as much as $15 cheaper). Going then may also save you from gaining as much weight as you would from a dinner banquet, because you'll still have many hours left in your day to burn off that calorie infusion. You'll also likely want a smaller dinner after all that afternoon food, saving you even more cash later in the day.

Lots of unlimited buffets, such as at the Golden Corral chain, switch dinner pricing in mid- to late-afternoon, but provided it's open continuously, you pay the price charged at the moment you sit down, not when you leave. Plan things right, and you can enjoy the dinner buffet, which may include an expanded menu, at the lunch price. In Vegas and Orlando, two towns packed with crowded buffets, going well outside of the mealtime rush is a smart time-saving strategy, too, because you won't have to wrestle so many other sharp-elbowed customers for the fried shrimp.