To Buffet or Not to Buffet? – also known as – What’s the big deal about a Buffet?

IMG_5395I’m going to say this flat out right in the beginning; I don’t see the big deal about restaurant buffets. Buffets are meant for huge gatherings, marriages, birthdays, and maybe they are somewhat suitable for breakfasts as well, but they are meant for where the idea is to feed a lot of people in a short period of time. As an “eater” I’ve never seen the charm of a buffet at a restaurant.

Hold on, stop raising your hands and jumping because you can list a few advantages of a buffet. I know what you’re going to say, and I’ll discuss those points as well, because hopefully this is a well-rounded look at buffets, but I want you to know where I stand, as my bias will most probably show its ugly head as I go on.

Buffets have certain huge advantages, for many folks, the biggest being variety. Going for à la carte means having a few dishes from the menu, but a buffet gives the customer a lot of options, at times from different cuisines, and thus also helps satisfy different tastes on the table.

However, who really eats everything in the end. It’s like getting excited about buying an eBook reader because you can read and carry thousands of book all the time. However, in the end, you will read only one, two, three, or maybe four books at a time.

I’ll be the first to admit that variety is the spice of life. Variety is good, in most cases, and when it comes to food it can be exciting, but then the question arises – at what expense? I’ve eaten at quite a few buffets over the years from different restaurants, but are they memorable? Not really. Whereas, I can list a number of my favourite and not-so-favourite à la carte dishes from the very same places. And as is the case with most restaurants, even the slightly complex à la carte preparations are seldom available in buffets.

Let’s move on to another advantage of a buffet, that it can be value for money. I personally believe that that is a huge misconception. If you’re in a big group, maybe that’s true, but for smaller groups (of up to even 4-6 adults), there’s hardly any difference, and I’m saying this from my personal experience. On the other hand, the restaurants are able to churn out their simpler dishes in a bunch and thus move out a lot of their food that would have stuck around should the buffet not happened.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re ready to counteract me by saying that in a buffet we can eat as much as we want and thus by default this makes things cheaper. Agreed, you’ve starved yourself all day and made the most of the buffet by filling yourself up. Did you enjoy the food? How did you feel at the end of it, that very night, or the day after? Were you feeling bloated because you stuffed yourself? What the food really tasty? What I’m asking is, was it all worth it? And, I won’t even talk about the wastage of food that evidently happens because of the all-you-can-eat offers at the buffets.

We all love food; I mean I surely do and this post is by no means to disqualify buffets. I just don’t understand the craze about them. I don’t understand that when I visit a restaurant, instead of being proud about their chef and encouraging me to have a special, many will try and convince me to have the buffet. Some places stop serving à la carte when they have the buffet. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve seen. Why would anyone do that? It makes no sense and is an insult to the food being served and also to the chef. I guess what bothers me the most is that a restaurant, the very place that should be showcasing their love and passion for food can get away with commercializing food like a factory belt churning out dishes one after another.

I’ve been often told that certain restaurants have excellent buffets and I don’t doubt that. I’ve been to places abroad, like Jimmy Spices in the UK, that have a permanent buffet every day of the week, but then they too have good and bad days, however there’s a certain standard of food they keep which is not the case with many of the restaurants here locally.

Coming back to what I mentioned earlier, buffets are hardly ever memorable for the right reasons. You might find a cheap one but the flavours are often lost in mass production and the simple food on offer in the end isn’t something to write home about. The “live-stations” too are often basic with nothing interesting being cooked. I truly believe that quality takes a big beating over quantity when it comes to buffets.

Now, I know I said I love variety, but too much of something, even choice, takes away from the joy of what we are having. That’s often the case with buffets. Multi-cuisine restaurants will have buffets serving so many things that what ends up on the plate is a complete mismatch of world foods. Moreover, once again, it takes away from the joy of eating food because it’s no longer about savoring each bite, rather a race to fill up the stomach. Add to that the fact that buffets don’t always showcase the best that the restaurant has to offer and once again we come to the point that a buffet is just about quantity where the passion is lost for profits.

I haven’t been to a buffet for ages now. Some are too expensive, others don’t seem appetizing enough, and then the ones that might be good, I end up visiting when I’m relatively “full” and there’s no way I can justify eating from these buffets. I hardly ever look for numerous deals that are thrown by restaurants trying to attract customers for their buffets emphasizing primarily on the copious amount of alcohol that is included. Food, taste, flavor, uniqueness, always takes a backseat and that’s just sad.

Here’s a little thought though, the next time you go for a buffet, don’t just get carried away by the price or even the variety, look at the small details; is there something special being served (or are you the type who is happy with unlimited number of margarita pizza slices), are you hungry enough to eat a lot of what’s on display, check the food in the à la carte menu, think about all the factors and then make an informed decision. Don’t get swayed by the look of the “spread”, give it a second or third thought and then go for it.

For those of you who love buffets no matter what and are fuming over what I’ve written, I just want you to remember that marriage season is round the corner which means you can rejoice for it’s time for the best kind of buffet – the FREE kind.

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