All-you-can-eat buffets are everything that's wrong about our nation's attitude to food
A Brighton pair have been banned from their local restaurant for eating too much. But who's really at fault here?
By Chris Pople 03/10/2012 15:04
There's an old episode of the Simpsons where Homer takes such enthusiastic advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffet at Springfield seafood restaurant The Frying Dutchman he is taken to court by the owner (Captain Horatio McAllister).
In a delicious case of life-imitating-art, two Brighton residents have been banned from their local Mongolian barbecue joint for eating so much over a period of a couple of years that their habits threatened to put the restaurant out of business.
"All-you-can-eat buffets are the ultimate expression of the 'food is fuel' mentality; the joyless, mechanical process of filling your gullet without caring how."
Well, that restaurant asked for it. I've always thought that if you're going to do anything so foolish, not to mention crass, as offer "all-you-can-eat" anything, you deserve everything you have coming to you.
The idea of encouraging your guests to stuff themselves so full of food that they leave on the verge of hospitalisation suggests firstly an overwhelming reliance on quantity over quality, but more importantly a hideous open invitation to gluttony and excess.
I'm sure most of us have, from time to time, left a restaurant pretty full. But hopefully this would have been because you were enjoying the food you paid for rather than because the only point of going in the first place was to 'be full'.
"Eating out should never be an emotionless transaction of the maximum level of indulgence for the minimum amount of money."
All-you-can-eat buffets are the ultimate expression of the 'food is fuel' mentality; the joyless, mechanical process of filling your gullet without caring how. "Never mind about the taste or provenance", they seem to be saying, "just eat until you're sick. I dare you."
Food should never be a chore, and eating out should never be an emotionless transaction of the maximum level of indulgence for the minimum amount of money. A good meal out is a wonderful thing, and we owe it to the places that do things well to properly appreciate it.
Certainly the pair from Brighton do seem to have approached their dinners with remarkable cynicism - according to the hapless owner they only ever drank tap water and never left a tip - but I'm afraid if you are going to pitch yourself as the restaurant equivalent of a 18-30 holiday, that's the kind of customer you're going to attract.
"Those two men from Brighton weren't really behaving badly, they were merely doing exactly what was expected of them. 'Eat all you can', the restaurant offered, so they did."
Perhaps, in the end, it's the whole British relationship with food that needs to change. We're so obsessed with getting our money's worth that we will, as I said in my previous #socialvoices article, happily ignore all kinds of malpractice, and drops in quality, as long as we can still get our £2 chickens.
Those two men from Brighton weren't really behaving badly, they were merely doing exactly what was expected of them. "Eat all you can", the restaurant offered, so they did. They paid the price this time, but with the way our attitudes (not to mention our waistlines) are heading as a nation, I can guarantee there are many others just like them lining up to take their place in the buffet queue.
Chris Pople is a food blogger who charts his food experiences online at his blog, Cheese and Biscuits. Follow Chris Pople on Twitter: @chrispople
- WERE THE OWNERS RIGHT TO BAN THE PAIR?
- SHOULD WE ACCEPT THAT THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A GOOD CHEAP MEAL?
- LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW
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