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Buffet Buffoonery

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Fillmore's Dad: Remember, you have to eat the meat...
Fillmore: ...to beat the house.

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 (such as the whole day... and in some extreme cases for years), 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.

Take in mind that in Real Life:

  1. One of the key rules about buffets is that it's "all you can eat" both within a certain period of time after you paid (usually around half an hour or so, and then you need to pay for another serving) and for however long the buffet is active for the day (so you can't pay $2.50 and eat "free" forever). Also, the buffet will supply food as long as supplies are available — once the available vittles reach a certain level, more won't be made until after the buffet time ends (or maybe even the next day).
  2. Also restaurants always have the legal freedom to refuse to serve (or even kick out and ban) customers, especially if they are being rude to everybody else or are just being annoying in general.
  3. And finally, there will always be items on the menu that are not part of the buffet and will not be provided unless you order normally — so, sorry, that fillet mignon with beluga caviar and champagne will always cost $500.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 

    Comedy 
  • John Pinette's stand-up routine, "Chinese Buffet" features the third variety. Pinette has several other routines about buffets he visits. Among them are a Wizard of Oz-themed buffet and a buffet at Disney land which, being air conditioned, doubled as a welcome respite from the heat.
  • 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!'"

    Comic Strips 
  • In The City, an old man scoots his chair up to a salad bar and just eats directly from under the sneeze guard. When an employee tells him he can't do that because it's unsanitary, the customer rejoins that he paid for it so he can have all he wants!
  • In FoxTrot, Peter cleans out an entire buffet, leaving nothing for his family. In another strip, he takes advantage of the all you can eat special at the pizza place where his friend Steve works at, and eats for six hours straight, only stopping when Steve tells him to leave at midnight (seeing as the special has ended, and his manager is pissed. Peter pushes his luck further and asks if he can have some to go.). In this later strip, he believes "all you can eat" is a requirement.
  • Dilbert has done several of these.
    • In one strip, Dogbert and a buffet waiter got into an elaborate argument over whether or not "all you can eat" applies to food that you take but don't eat.
      Dogbert: Technically, it's all you can eat, not all you DO eat.
    • Another Dilbert strip features Dilbert going out on a date with an obese woman. He tries to take her to a buffet, but she said that she's already been banned for life, presumably for eating too much.
    • And then there's Dilbert's dad. He went to an all-you-can-eat buffet during the Christmas shopping season of 1992, but never left, because he hadn't yet eaten "all he could eat." His family didn't even realize what he'd been up to until June of 1996, and all evidence suggests that he's still there today. In an episode of the animated series, Dilbert actually meets his dad at the restaurant, where he's become a shaman-like figure for the people of the mall.
    • And in yet another strip, Dilbert and Dogbert notice that one of these places now is open 24/7 and ponder how you could theoretically pay once and stay there forever.
  • In one strip, Garfield and Jon are looking for a restaurant, and Garfield points to a place called "Ernie's Eat Till You Explode". ("Let's just say I have good feelings about it," says Garfield.)
  • A Hägar the Horrible strip has Hagar carrying away the entire contents of a smorgasbord.
  • Zits: An 'all-you-can-eat' pizza place hurriedly closes its Venetian blinds and flips the "closed" sign when it sees a group of teenage boys approaching.
  • In a Ziggy one-panel, a waiter is seen saying to Ziggy: "I say that's all you can eat, that's who!"
  • Piranha Club has a series of strips where Sid took advantage of a buffet to feed his Extreme Omnivore Big Eater piranha Earl. After the first visit almost made them bankrupt, the restaurant started trying to keep Sid out, culminating in making him wait indefinetly for a table. This just lead to Sid feeding the vestibule couch to Earl instead.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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 (Eating - as the first course - a boar with french fries, a flock of geese, several sheep, an omelette made with eight dozen eggs, a whole school of fish, an ox, a cow and two veal ("because to separate ze family...zat would not be right!"), a huge mound of caviar (with a single piece of toast), a camel, and an elephant stuffed with olives) and is still hungry.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps has a buffet sequence that borders on Mundane Made Awesome. It starts with the Klump family walking up to the restaurant 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.

    Jokes 
  • A couple in a restaurant. When the husband returns with a full plate from the buffet, which is his sixth one:
    Wife: Aren't you ashamed? Don't you care what the people will think about you?
    Husband: Why about me? I tell everyone it's for you!
  • There's a joke in the German-speaking parts of the Internet written in the style of a newsletter for the employees, about the coming Christmas party. It contains several rules, among them: Don't put your chair right next to the buffet. And we don't allow the excuse, "But then Herr Meier will eat all the honeydew melon and leave nothing to me!" either.

    Literature 
  • Discworld:
    • In Going Postal 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.
    • The Unseen University Diary says that student wizards are not allowed to go for the All-You-Can-Gobble-For-A-Dollar menu at Harga's, because they gobble far too much, and have also been banned from the salad bar at the Groaning Platter, following the invention of the Tiny Salad Bowl of Holding.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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."
  • I'm Alan Partridge: Alan Partridge brings his own (oversized) plate to the buffet.
  • The Nanny uses this joke a lot, mostly with Fran's Big Eater Jewish Mother Sylvia, but even Fran herself indulges in it on occasion. One episode has her hiding shrimp from a cruise buffet in her purse.
  • Played for drama on an episode of CSI where the investigators were going over the steps of the Victim of the Week. The man was a Big Eater because of a neurological disorder that made him feel eternally hungry (to the point that his sister had to keep him restrained Hannibal Lecter-style for years in order to prevent him from overeating himself to death), and once the sister's boyfriend (who knew nothing about this issue but took pity on the man being bound to a chair) cut him loose, he went straight to a hotel's buffet and had to be kicked out by security because he was attacking other people that were trying to serve themselves.

    Music 
  • Fatboys video "All You Can Eat". Case in point.
  • In Shape of You by Ed Sheeran, the couple goes to a buffet on their first date. Because they want to save money, the woman fills up her bag. (The man merely fills up his plate.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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!"

    Web Comics 
  • 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.
  • The characters on Piled Higher And Deeper engage in this to stretch their food budgets.
  • A Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic has a customer gloating to an apathetic restaurant clerk about how he filled his pay-by-weight salad with cheeses, dressings, cashews and olives. Of course, now he has to eat the result. The votey extra panel reveals he got a heart attack from it.
    Customer: Must... enjoy... terrible taste!
  • Nothing Nice to Say has an early strip where Mitch takes massive advantage of a diners All You Can Eat Enchiladas offer, to the point that the waiter threatens to clean his table and kick him out the next time he uses the bathroom. Mitch replies thats why he brought a bedpan.

    Western Animation 
  • In Fillmore!, Fillmore and his dad strategize about which foods to eat to get the most value for their money. His mother even chastises Fillmore that it's all a normal person can eat and to not eat the poor owner out of business.
  • The Simpsons:
    • An all-you-can-eat seafood buffet founders once Homer shows up and eats for hours, actually forcing the restaurant to go on food runs several times to keep the pantry supplied (which he eats). The guy in charge, Captain Macallister, has Homer thrown out, leading to a lawsuit for "false advertisement". In the end, the owner just charges people to watch in horror as Homer eats endlessly.
      Captain Macallister: Yar, 'tis not a man. 'Tis a remorseless eatin' machine!
    • Homer does it again in the episode when he helps redecorate Moe's bar.
    • Homer once drove a Pizza Hut out of business by abusing their "Free Soda Refills" policy.
      Manager: Where is it all going?!
    • When Homer took the family to a brunch buffet, he made sure to tell the kids to stay away from the "sucker" foods like breadrolls (he punched the server offering him oatmeal), and stuffs himself with so much shrimp he cant move, proclaiming that "he won".
  • 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.
    Dietitian: N-not everything needs gravy... there's some carrots right there... that cheesecake was for everyone...
  • Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist: 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!"
  • One episode of CatDog centers around the pair trying to sneak into a buffet that they'd been banned from thanks to Dog's overeating ("Just because it says 'All you can eat' doesn't mean you're supposed to eat it all!")
  • The Critic episode "Lady Hawke" had a scene where Jay is showing Olivia around New York, and they pass a Chinese Buffet, with Jay hungrily staring through the window. The staff recognizes him and panics.
    Waiter: It's the monster with many mouths! Kill the lights!!
  • Dilbert: Young Dilbert's father had a very Literal-Minded interpretation of "All You Can Eat" at a seafood restaurant. By the time he and Dilbert meet again when Dilbert is an adult, he makes it pretty clear that he's going to stay until he's had absolutely "all he could eat"... which pretty much means dropping dead inside the restaurant.

    Real Life 
  • 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 link.
  • 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.
  • There have been quite some lawsuits by people who didn'tget all they could eat and sued for false advertising.

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