"Remember, you have to eat the meat..."
"...to beat the house."
—Fillmore's dad and Fillmore!
The basic idea of the buffet is that, for a fixed price, you can enjoy "all you can eat" from a series of tables and serving platters. This means that there are more and less economical ways to handle a buffet, which of course opens the door for a variety of comedic events:
- Military-level strategizing over how to eat the most expensive food to get the most for your money, often punctuated by comments about how you have to 'beat the house' or 'avoid the decoys' of cheap items like bread.
- Rules-lawyering over what 'all you can eat' really means. The restaurant might argue, for instance, that an extra crumb is food the customer didn't eat (and is obligated to pay additional money for). Or they might refuse to let a customer leave until they've really consumed ALL they can eat.
- Customers going to extremes to eat as much as possible (fasting before going; staying in the buffet for absurd lengths of time, sitting or even standing right in front of the buffet), sometimes even eating all the food and leaving others hungry.
- The restaurant going broke because the Big Eater showed up.
- The Nutty Professor II has a buffet sequence that borders on Mundane Made Awesome. It starts with the Klump family walking up to the resteraunt in silhouette before announcing themselves ("Klump, party of six. And we are hungry"). Cut to a fast-paced montage of them practically attacking the buffet line. It ends with a pan shot of the table with all of the food trays empty...except for the fully stocked salad tray.
- In Discworld, the wizards, notorious diners all, are seen to construct elaborate architectural models using celery and lettuce leaves so as to increase the depth of a bowl by up to three times its intended size.
- A Shadowrun novel ponders the question how this would work in a world where trolls (9-foot-tall metahumans) exist. Their suggestion: Trolls are allowed, if they bring a customer along who isn't a troll.
Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy
- A skit on Saturday Night Live, possibly one of their "Limits of the Imagination" thriller spoofs, had a couple go to an 'All-you-can-eat' restaurant and be later told "It's not all you CARE TO eat, it's all you CAN eat!" and they look and see the other patrons are being force-fed.
- On Hill Street Blues, a man sat right in front of the salad bar and refused to leave until he'd 'eaten all he could.'
- Alan Partridge brings his own (oversized) plate to the buffet.
- John Pinette's stand-up routine, "Chinese Buffet" features the third variety.
- In Garry Shandling's Alone in Vegas, he asks the audience how many of them are losing money at the tables. Then: "Ever try to make up for it at the buffet? 'I'll eat $700 worth of food if it kills me!'"
- Used as a side gag in one of the "Grimtooth's Traps" books. Grimtooth commented that he'd gone to a diner for its all-you-can-eat elf special, and was told after his first plate, "You've had your elf; that's all you can eat!"
- In The Whiteboard, it's stated that the Chinese restaurant where Pirta used to work had to discontinue its buffet due to Doc eating a whole Tibetan yak's worth every time he went.
- In Fillmore!, Fillmore and his dad strategize about which foods to eat to get the most value for their money.
- In The Simpsons, an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet founders once Homer shows up and eats for hours. The guy in charge, Captain Macallister, has Homer thrown out, leading to a lawsuit. In the end, the owner just charges people to watch in horror as Homer eats endlessly.
- Homer does it again in the episode when he helps redecorate Moe's bar.
- In The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, one of the tasks is to finish a meal cooked by Calorofix the Belgian, a chef famous for making meals for the Titans. Obelix cleans him out and is still hungry.
- In one episode of Garfield and Friends, Garfield goes to the buffet, and after eating everything, the owner cries about how he's been wiped out. Garfield complains, "False advertising. You didn't have all I could eat." Then he hopes that the owner will restock before dinner time since he [Garfield] is still hungry. Later, Jon tries to take him and Odie to the buffet for dinner, but Garfield is banned and has to sneak in.
- A Family Guy gag features Britney Spears rapidly consuming a comically large amount of food at a buffet, including standing right by the serving tables instead of sitting down, while her hapless dietitian completely fails to stop her.
- Dr Katz - patient Barry Sobel recounts his father's suspicious nature, extending to all-you-can-eat steak restaurants - he insists "Don't eat the breadsticks! By the time you get to the steak you're too full. That's how they get'cha!"
- There have been numerous guides written for maximizing one's visit to a buffet. Typical tips include things like where to sit, what to wear, what sort of exercise to do beforehand, when to go to the bathroom, and what to drink (nothing, of course, because liquids are cheap and fill up your stomach). See, for example, this and this.
- According to the BBC, two diners have been banned from an all-you-can-eat restaurant in Brighton. The diners have accused the restaurant of not living up to its policy, while the owner claims they were banned for being rude to other customers.