The All You Can Eat Food Buffet: Is It Worth Your Money?

by Guest Blogger on 2011-04-0810

Sure, you want to stretch your food budget, especially when you’re eating out. One way you can do it is with an all-you-can-eat buffet, which seems like a great deal. The thought that you’ll be paying a flat rate for eating as much food as you can handle seems very, very appealing, particularly for a foodie. For a minimum of $3 (and all the way up to $10) for a buffet meal, you can heap your plate with food that could keep you full for days. However, whenever you say the phrase “all-you-can-eat buffet,” why is it that your mother’s admonition that ” it’s not really worth the money” starts ringing in your ears? Well, let’s look at all-you-can-eat buffets from two perspectives.

The All You Can Eat Food Buffet: Worth Your Money?

Reasons why they are:

  • According to quite a few articles, like Eat Your Money’s Worth At Any All-You-Can-Eat Buffet, a buffet meal is all about the strategy. If you know how you’re going to approach this event and you prepare yourself for it, then it’s going to be worth what you spend on it.
  • It’s all about the value. Is the food both delicious and affordable? Paying $3 to $10 for a buffet meal would be quite reasonable, but only if the food doesn’t taste like cardboard or isn’t of low quality. Of course, everyone’s price points and food requirements are different, so that should also be taken into consideration when you’re gauging “worth”.
  • You’re after the convenience. Buffets are great because you don’t have to wait around for a server to order anything. WYSIWYG!
All You Can Eat Buffett
Image from 1000 Awesome Things

Reasons why they aren’t:

  • Is the food actually good? In some places, you might as well be eating sandpaper. Food may not be as fresh if the buffet isn’t well maintained.
  • In theory, a buffet offers a convenient set up, but it can also get crowded.
  • If you’re thinking about trying the pricier restaurants because of their house specials, then the price points are higher. In such cases, would it be worth spending $15 or up (e.g. $60) for a single meal? But this is the case for any expensive restaurant anyway. On the other hand, this is a perfect opportunity to bring your trusty rewards credit card (or cash back card). These cards often favor dining as a spending category that you can earn rewards for.
  • More expensive buffets may put undue pressure on you to consume as much food as your stomach can hold so that you feel that you’re getting your money’s worth. You’ll tend to overeat.

The bottom line is that this type of dining experience really depends on what you want to get out of it: are you looking to stuff yourself at an affordable price? Are you looking to consume a special meal at a nice, flat rate? Are you looking to spend quality time with friends and family over a meal without having to worry about the tab? Are you there because it’s convenient and you just want to eat and run? I certainly feel that a buffet is great for certain set ups while a sit down arrangement is better for others. Do you have a preference?

All You Can Eat Dining: Some Advice

I am going to guess that buffets are more popular in certain parts of the world vs others. It may also be more of a hit with certain demographics, cultures or economic classes, right? In my case, I’d go to a buffet if I’m in the mood to really eat well and I know the menu. Think about it in terms of dollar per calorie: each calorie you consume will be much cheaper than you’ll get elsewhere!

Just bear in mind that these things may happen at a buffet:

  • You’ll consume more calories than usual in order to make the meal worth the price.
  • Should you overeat, you’ll likely feel quite miserable afterwards.
  • There is probably a relatively higher food safety risk when dishes are exposed to more people and restaurant patrons.

All-you-can-eat buffets are a great way to enjoy a meal with a lot of people, provided that you choose a clean and reputable dining establishment and that you watch your food intake, despite the price. It’s the bonding and the experience you’re after, not just the food.

Some articles you may want to check out on the topic of eating well:

That said, if you’ve got a hankering for this, it would pay to know where the best buffets are, right? So here is a sampling of the best buffets around the world, from No Holiday No Life:

1. Copper Chimney in New York City for Indian food.
2. The Veranda at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden serves local food.
3. Al Hadheerah at Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa in Dubai serves local food.
4. The Lady and Sons in Savannah, Georgia for American Southern style food.
5. The Rice Table in Singapore for Indonesian food.

And here’s an awesome guide on how to get the most from an all you can eat buffet style restaurant, from Top Cultured.

So have you had an all you can eat experience that you can never forget? Share your story with us and leave us a comment!

Contributing Writer: Lorie L.

Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

jpassmore April 8, 2011 at 6:18 am

I think some buffets are better deals than others. Going to a CiCi’s Pizza, you’ll spend maybe $6-7 per person where I live, and it’s delicious! But I went to Golden Corral a few weeks ago and spent $30 on two people.

The quality was great at both places, but I always feel like I get a good deal at CiCi’s, while at Golden Corral I was kind of surprised at the price.

Amy Saves April 8, 2011 at 10:09 am

I think the buffets in Vegas are worth the price. For around $25-45, depending on where and when you go, you can get all sorts of cuisines under 1 roof. I’m not a fan of buffets at all, but when in Vegas, it’s all about their famous stuff-your-face-till-you-explode feasts!

Silicon Valley Blogger April 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I am actually not a big buffet person either. But I like the ethnic food display! I had one all you can eat Chinese buffet in Florida with a bunch of bloggers and that was the last AYCE dining experience I had. I don’t think it’s that popular here in the SF Bay Area, but I would love to know where I can find them so I can try them out!

krantcents April 8, 2011 at 4:04 pm

A very long time ago, I would go to Sunday brunches. I would pile my plate high with shrimp (cooked) because I love it. It was a eat-a-ton! In those days, the brunch was considerably cheaper, however the goal was to overeat which is neither enjoyable nor healthy. I much rather have quality versus quantity. I no longer frequent those buffets.

Funny about Money April 8, 2011 at 4:12 pm

There are a couple of Indian joints around here where the all-you-can-eat is probably a good deal, if you’re hungry. It’s hard to ruin anything with curry in it!

Your post reminds me of the guys my roommate and I used to hang out with in college. They were young athletes and so calorie-burning machines. They made a business of trying every all-you-can-eat joint in town. Since their tastes were not what we would call “picky,” watching these characters work the food line was quite an experience. They would pile their plates halfway to the ceiling, balance them carefully on the way back to the table, scarf every bite down, then repeat…two or three more times! I’m sure the restaurant owners cringed every time they saw us coming. 😀

Silicon Valley Blogger April 8, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Isn’t it interesting that when we’re younger, everything is about more-more-more! Quantity first! Back then, I wanted anything cheap and the more I could get, the better. Well, no biggie, since I hardly gained a pound. I agree with krantcents — these days, it’s all about quality vs quantity. Plus nowadays, if I inhale so much as a feather, I gain a pound! 😉

wow, thanks for the memories. I remember our college days when it was all about “the binge”. Ugh. So yes, I can imagine how buffet places probably weren’t too keen on having college students as visitors. Remind me not to open an AYCE diner in a college town!

Kosmo @ The Soap Boxers April 8, 2011 at 6:03 pm

If there’s bacon on the buffet, it’s worth my money. I can down 2-3 plates of bacon. Everything else is just filler, and I avoid it.

(I’m 155 pounds and my health numbers are good … I know my bacon affinity probably concerned a few of you.)

SCD April 16, 2011 at 11:28 am

I don’t think that this is worth my money.

Obbop July 31, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Agree with the others as to being able in my younger years to consume massive amounts of food.

Enough to meet the caloric needs of a sub-Saharan village for a month or more.

At a Chinese buffet in Concord, California, while devouring my 4th or 5th plate-full of really yummy Chinese-type vittles the waitress brought out three Chinese cook/chefs from the kitchen who stood at the booth I was sitting in and commenced smiling and bowing to me.

I smiled back and bowed while sitting then asked the waitress, who spoke English passingly-well, what was going on.

She said my eating such such a HUGE quantity of food was a great compliment to the restaurant and those working within.

I asked if what I had heard was true; that a hearty belch was also a compliment. She confirmed this so I offered a rip-roaring high-decibel BELCH that echoed off the walls.

Beaming broadly the cooks headed back to the kitchen and I waddled back to the buffet for a couple more plates of grub before heading home and sleeping off what was likely a 10,000 calorie or more meal.

Silicon Valley Blogger July 31, 2011 at 9:36 pm

All I can say is…. YIKES! 😉 While I wish I had 4 stomachs sometimes, I make sure I don’t go over 1,800 calories a day. I am deathly afraid of ending up with diabetes, which is something that runs in my family.

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