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December 16, 2003 8:08 PM quote 
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 Buffet disadvantages

We are planning on opening a buffet-style restaurant, and I am trying to come up with the disadvantages and potential problems associated with buffets so that the problems can be prevented or lessened. So far, I've come up with a couple of potential problems:

- Potential food waste
- Popular items run out quickly
- Food temperature/freshness
- Expensive equipment

Does anyone else see any problems that comes with offering buffet-style services? Both from the point of view of the customer and the owner.

Dennis


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December 16, 2003 8:23 PM quote 
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Why do you believe there is a need for a Buffet operation? Is there competition? What is the population you will be drawing from? What is the mix of menu items? Are you themed? Oriental, North American, or other? Will you be serving breakfast, lunch dinner?
Buffet can be profitable if the volume exists. Low volume (customer counts) low quality! Freshness and cooking in small batches to maintain quality and food safety.
Labour cost is not necessarily diminished by having a buffet, was that your reason for selecting that concept Marven
December 16, 2003 10:42 PM quote 
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Ex cafeteria dude here..1st of all you will need high volume. Without that every day will be re-runs of yesterdays leftovers. 2nd you need to have the recipes that will allow you to reuse leftovers in a manner that looks like a new product, ie left over fired fish and mashed potatoes is apart of my salmon croquette recipe. If you have the volume, your biggest problem is going to be controlling food cost. Make sure you have some kind of resorce to utilize every thing that is left on the counter from yesterday. And I can tell you right now..there is not a single thing you can do with left over fried okra!!
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December 17, 2003 3:29 AM quote 
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Fried okra's a great ingredient to add to salmon patties or crab cakes Dave. Lol. Takes the place of the other, less tasty filler.

B
December 17, 2003 5:34 PM quote 
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Thanks Marvin and David for the advice.

David, besides having alternative recipes for leftovers, what other ways did you do to control food costs?
December 17, 2003 6:37 PM quote 
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Dennis, you have to buy right and control portions, (usually done by the size of the bowl or plate), control waste in the cooking and storing process, (make sure there are MUCHO plastic spatulas and do not leave any residue in a can or a pan or a bowl). Scrape everything dry as it all adds to the bottom line! Keep a close eye on cooks and prep people to make sure they are not tossing edible product! Good luck to ya!!
December 17, 2003 7:36 PM quote 
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Dennis -

Personally - I love buffet restaurants , to me they are the next best thing to sliced bread - unfortunately , not everyone feels the same ( like 78% of the Generation X’ers .. LOL ) but located in the right market - they can still prove to be a very profitable vehicle. I have never had a food cost problem in buffet units , they have always averaged +/- 1.5% of my projection .

Obviously with a buffet having proper serving utensils, proper holding/serving equipment, correct plate sizes, a practical product presentation order / display and a directed traffic flow is important , but without a steady flow of really hungry guests who cares - so forget all that traditional crap about fillers and crappy low cost food - bring out the big guns and layout everything people really like.

Sound crazy? Well its not. Verses putting out a few items that the majority of people like , putting out a wide variety of items the majority of people like will accomplish two pleasant things - 1) Having a wide variety will encourage people to take less of a wider selection , which allows the buffet line to maintain a better balance 2) It ATTRACTS GUESTS Seriously - it is just as easy to control the cost of high priced items that are eaten as it is to control the cost of low cost items that are often thrown away.

Buffet restaurants do not follow the same cost guide lines as traditional sit down restaurants , so don’t let anyone try to tell you they are. In addition , buffet operations live & die based on volume - not cost percentages - so you need to keep your focus on keeping butts in seats more than worrying about food cost - trust me.

TTFN -

H
December 17, 2003 9:06 PM quote 
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One frequently overlooked aspect of buffets is the flow situation. You get stuff hard-wired in the wrong spot you're kind of stuck for a while. Be very carefulk how you position your buffet. A "scatter system" can help alleviate the pile-ups you see at poorly planned buffets.

Pass-through holding ovens and coolers are slick. I would look into these if I were you.

Personally...you would have to hold a gun to my head to work in a buffet place again. Broasting 70 cases of chicken a week can cause one to see chicken (and most buffet foods) in a whole new light.
December 18, 2003 1:12 AM quote 
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Henry, thanks for the insight. I do notice that there's probably not as many people in their 20's eating at buffets, except for those with kids. I myself am a Gen X'r....However, I'm inspired by a few of great buffets I've seen. One is "Todai", they label themselves as "seafood buffet", and they do offer seafood, but they also offer an extremely wide variety of sushi and assorted Japanese dishes. At $24/person, the dinner price there is higher than your average buffet. I also like one of the buffet that I saw at Las Vegas...the buffet inside the Paris Hotel. If I remember right, the price for that buffet is about $35/person. Very neat atmosphere.
December 18, 2003 1:50 PM quote 
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Tom, yeah we'll do the "scatter" approach. We'd rather have the customers be able to go to the food that they want without having to wait in line. It's good for the customers and good for us...the faster they can get their food the better.
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