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ALL YOU CAN EAT...... OR NOT! (moved from PNW)

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INTERESTED IN ANYONE'S OPINION ON THE ARTICLE NANCY LESON WROTE IN YESTERDAY'S SEATTLE TIMES WHERE SHE BASICALLY SAYS IT'S OK TO ADVERTISE AN ALL YOU CAN EAT OFFER AND THEN PICK AND CHOOSE WHO IS EATING TOO MUCH OR WHO SHOULD BE CHARGED EXTRA FOR HOW MUCH THEY EAT. THIS IS ABOUT AS RIDICULOUS AS IT GETS IN MY OPINION.
HAVING EATEN AT THE PLACE IN QUESTION RECENTLY, FIRST IT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOOD IMO TO EAT TOO MUCH OR GO MORE THAN ONCE. SECOND IF YOU OFFER AYCE,THAN THAT IS WHAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO. WITHOUT THE ISSUE OF HAVING SOMEONE FOLLOW THEM OUT TO THE CAR AND TELL THEM THEY ATE TOO MUCH AND WOULD HAVE TO PAY MORE NEXT TIME.
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IF THE RESTAURANT IS THAT WORRIED ABOUT HOW MUCH FOOD ONE PERSON EATS ON AN AYCE DEAL, EITHER THEY SHOULD RAISE THE PRICE OR GET OUT OF THE AYCE BUSINESS. THOUGHTS?

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  1. I read this too. There was a similar issue in Florida when I lived there about all you can eat crab legs. The man in question was about 250lbs and had a healthy appetite. I think in the world of fine print it should be noted somewhere that there is actually a limit to the "all you can eat." Otherwise don't limit anyone. Ah what can you do.

    1. Here's a link to the article: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html...

      I tend to think that AYCE = All you can eat. Period. If not, then say something like "three trips per customer" or have some other limitation. In that I tend to agree with "Steve."

      However, according to the article's author, after talking with the owner about Steve and his eating habits, "You don't leave any for his other customers. And by the time he saw you heading back for your third round last time, he started bringing the food to them rather than refilling the platters on the counter." It sounds like the issue was not so much how much Steve was eating, but rather how much he was taking at one time. if Steve was emptying the display platters as soon as they were refilled, and leaving nothing for the other patrons, that is a problem and very rude on Steve's part.

      I'm not sure what else the owner could have done, other than what he did (and I'm sure he didn't come to that decision easily). He had a choice between offending one customer (Steve) or offending lots of customers (the other patrons who weren't getting anything to eat because Steve was regularly taking all of the food).

      At a family reunion a group of us went to an AYCE buffet that offered fresh seafood - we ended-up leaving (after complaining to the manager who was apologetic and didn't charge us) because another group would line-up with several plates each and fill them to overflowing with the seafood offerings - they'd actually stagger people to stand in line and wait for the next platter to be brought out, and then take the plates back to their tables for everyone to share. No-one else in the restaurant was able to get to the crab, shrimp, or lobster. Very frustrating.

      So yes, AYCE should equal all one can eat (regardless of appetite, body size, or issues of gluttony). But it sounds like Steve was actually eating everything at once and not leaving enough for others who were dining at the same time.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ElsieDee

        But that begs another question: if a place like this offers an all-you-can-eat buffet, isn't it incumbent upon them to make sure they put out enough for all -- for Steve and the rest? It sounds like the restaurant isn't able, or willing, to keep up. I've seen this kind of problem at a few buffets with very popular items.

        If they can't, fine -- they should modify their policy. There's an all-you-can-eat sushi place in Waltham, MA that takes your order, allowing you to order as much as you want, then brings it to you; they will come back to you as often as you like, but they also charge you extra for any uneaten items and don't allow doggie bags. This way everyone gets what they want, as much as they want, no one is inconvenienced, and the all-you-can-eat policy stays in effect.

        To my way of thinking, advertising yourself as an all-you-can-eat spot and then putting unposted limits on folks they want to cut off smacks of bait and switch. And I think if a restaurant can't absorb the cost of the occasional trencherman, they shouldn't offer it in the first place.

      2. If they allow only one trip to the steam table, load up your plate like you were playing a game of championship Jenga! Build a firm foundation, and taper the top. Don't *waste* anything, and you'll be fine. That'll teach 'em. Yup ---> http://www.mypeopleconnection.com/com...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Cheese Boy

          Teach who what?

        2. I wrote on the article board and I'll write it again here. If you get 1000 customers in a 6 month period and only one ever eats too much, that means that 99.9% of your customers are allowing you to make a profit, and presumably are buying in to the marketing scheme of eating the AYCE lunch and coming back for the far more profitable dinner period and/or telling their friends about it. Furthermore, that one person is hurting your profit margin a) by eating the amount of 3 paying normal customers (estimated at 35-40 nigiri versus the average of 12-13) and b) by eating so much that other customers are having a less good experience.

          If 99.9% of the time your plan works, I see no reason not to ask the one person to not return or to pay an extra fee. It seems to me the restaurateur asked him, if he chose to return, to pay a supplement. He even insinuated he is allowed to return, which, since I know you all have seen "this establishment reserves the right to refuse service..." signs, was a choice.

          I know all of america feels they are entitled to everything, but somethimes there is just a little man there trying to make a go of a restaurant, and you must think this through before you make the judgement. Just because you are hungry and think you have found a good deal, and return enough times to abuse the system, does that mean some poor man trying to keep his little sushi restaurant afloat should have to either close his establishment or switch away from what is 99.9% of the time a brilliant marketing scheme?

          I'd really like to hear answers, but please read the article by Ms. Leeson first, she does a great job of presenting the situation even handedly.

          1. OK, I love sushi, but 30-40 pieces of buffet grade fish is a bit over the top. Regardless of the AYCE policy how many of us would be burnt out long before that? If the guy was going up and cleaning off the platters everytime something new was put out it is a bit inconsiderate, but AYCE buffets bring out the best in people, don't they?

            I'd be nodding off at my desk all afternoon.

            While it may seem wrong to have talked with the customer and told him he'd have to pay more next time, how much will it hurt this resto to lose this customer? Even if he tells his friends I'm betting it will be more of a brag than a complaint. What's he really going to say -- the food was no good? The service was bad? I ate three times what the normal person eats and they wanted to charge me more?

            I side with the resto slightly on this, after all they didn't charge him more this time, they just clarified a policy for the next time he comes in and left it up to him to make the decision. if you can't get a decent lunch out of three trips to the buffet I don't think you are being cheated.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Scrapironchef

              Why advertise something (AYCE) that you have no intention on providing it? If the restaurant owner only wants to offer "X" pieces of sushi for $10.95, advertise the special in that way. The overwhelming majority of people will recognize that as a good deal.

              I just purchased an new automobile at a price that I know was below dealer's cost. It was clearly advertised and I paid exactly the advertised price for that vehicle. I know that the dealer could not afford to sell all the cars on the lot at that price. However, does he have a right to complain that he did NOT make any money on the deal? After all, he set that price. (My initial offer would have been $700 more.)

              Personally, the author's argument that the owner has to stay in business is nor pursuasive. If the restaurant owner prics his menu (or menu items) below his costs, is it not his fault that the restaurant fails? It is like the argument made most recently by the CEO of United Airlines that fares are too low.

              1. re: jlawrence01

                Actually, up until the time he spoke with the customer after the last incident he did provide what he advertised, so no harm/no foul in my book. If he doesn't change his signage/menu and pulls the same thing on someone without their foreknowledge then he's over the line.

                Up until now the original customer was not cheated in the least, if the new policy is 3 trip maximum the customer can decide if that is a good value or not and choose his lunch spot accordingly.

                Using car deals as an analogy is a bit grey as the accounting in car dealerships is only surpassed in creativity by the movie industry.

            2. Wasn't Chuck-A-Rama in Salt Lake City sued when the manager told a husband and wife that they had had enough roast beef from the AYCE buffet? I'm not sure how that one turned out.

              1. it's an awkward situation for the restaurant. they have to do what's right for them, and if they offend one customer, it seems to be worth it.

                1. It's one thing to worry about one person eating more than another. They are basically hedging that the light eaters will make up for the heavy eaters. But this person is really over the top. Businesses do not have an obligation to continue their business relationship with unprofitable clients. Sometimes it's in the owner's best interest to end their relationships with these clients. The guy ate 40 rolls. That's ridiculous.

                  ###

                  Homer: All you can eat. Ha!
                  Hutz: Mr. Simpson, this is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising
                  since my suit against the film, ``The Never-Ending Story''.
                  ...
                  Marge: We drove around until three in the morning looking for another open all-you-can-eat seafood restaurant.
                  Lionel Hutz: And when you couldn't find one?
                  Marge: [crying] We... went... fishing.
                  Lionel Hutz: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, do these sound like the actions of a man whose had ALL he could eat?

                  1. The British version of this offer is so much more charming and less like a sporting competition - "All You Care to Eat."

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rcallner

                      I know this thread is old, but this really irks me... I am a small eater (though I love food) and have paid high prices for "All you can eat" and "buffet" places before. I do not get a discount because I eat the equivalent of 1/2 a normal portion, and the owner should not get a special "fee" for folks that eat more than what was expected. I'm sure there are plenty of small eaters, etc who make up for others. Either have an "all you can eat" deal, or don't. Penalizing people for taking advantage of the deal seems to be inviting a PR disaster!!!