Are “all you can eat” buffets strictly American?

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Do you have “All you can eat” buffets in your country?  Since the AMA has brought the “obesity disease” into the news, eating habits are in the forefront of my mind.  I am wondering if America is the only place that has these all you can eat buffets everywhere.  As many of you know, its very, very common in America to have unlimited refills on soda (coke etc) but its also common to have all you can eat too  and there are many variations:

  • All you can eat salad.  Even restaurants that are not all you can eat very often have unlimited salad bars which means you can go back for as many refills as you want.  No big deal you say, its good for you?  Guess again!  Unfortunately in America the “salad” you find at a salad bar is  rarely healthy, the iceberg lettuce is sometimes the only vegetable and its just used as a decorative bowl to pile your macaroni salad into.  The things in a salad bar most commonly are simple carbs with lots of creamy fat and cheese.  Some examples of restaurants with all you can eat salad are Wendys, Sizzler and Olive Garden.
  • All you can drink sodas.  As Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban made famous, yes, in America virtually every restaurant will refill your soda-pop (coke, etc) free as many times as you want.  All other beverages are charged per glass.
  • All you can eat buffet, also called smorgasbord.  Kings Table and Royal Fork are two examples but virtually every town has a locally owned “Smorgy-Bobs”.  These places are self service buffet style, where you can go back and refill your plate as many times as you want and stay as long as you want.  Usually these smorgasbords are very inexpensive and the food quality is what you would expect – lots of spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, pizza, fried chicken, etc.  Usually the only thing not self service is the roast beef (most expensive thing they offer) where staff cuts you a modest piece.  One exception to the low quality buffet is Las Vegas where they have mastered the art of the high quality buffets.  Not only are they all you can eat but the quality is often equivalent to the best table service restaurants.  Of course, the casinos subsidize the meals just to get you in the door in hopes you will gamble there.
  • Free bread.  Virtually every restaurant in America gives free bread with the meal but my guess is that this is done in other countries as well.  The bread can be plain, deep fried, or cheese covered.

Does your country have all you can eat restaurants or all you can eat salad bars?  

Is the “all you can eat/drink” thing a significant factor in causing the American obesity epidemic? If so, should it be taxed like the NYC Bloomberg soda ban?  Where does one draw the line with the “nanny-state”?  We force motorcyclists to wear helmets and automobile drivers to wear seat-belts to save lives, but yet we allow people to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol but tax it heavily. Yet other risky and dangerous behaviors are neither taxed nor illegal.   Which camp does “all you can eat” belong in?  How does one determine which risky behaviors are personal choice, which are illegal, and which are legal but taxed?  Is it based on the cost to taxpayers where there are various cost thresholds for legal, legal but taxed, and illegal?  How do you reconcile personal freedom and choice with personal responsibility?  Do we just allow all risky behaviors but require people to buy risky-behaviour insurance?  To get into the all you can eat buffet or ride your motorcycle without a helmet you have to show proof of insurance?  I don’t have the answers but I sure have lots of questions.  Its time for a national dialog.

View from my table at my recent trip to Olive Garden where they have all you can eat salad and fried bread sticks:

All you can eat buffets


Thanks to AskScooby member MicSS for this great topic!