01 August 2005

Buffet vs. Pay-By-Weight

Okay, so everyone is familiar with the buffet style eating. All my Charlottesville amigos will know The Wood Grill Buffet and surely everyone has been to Ruby Tuesdays or similar restaurants with a buffet option. Basic concept: Pay a set fee upfront and eat as much as you like.

In Brazil a more common option is the pay-by-weight where they weigh your plate after you've piled on all you like and pay a per gram fee. The arrangement however looks much like a typical American buffet.

Obviously the restaurant is in business to make money. To make money they need to make profit off customers. So let's look at how you make profit off customers with each model.

With the buffet, the fee has been paid up front. The goal is to get the customer to eat as little as possible. So if you can get the customer to purchase the buffet without providing expensive foods (good meats, quality fruits, etc) all the better. So the "looks good from far, but is far from good" principle applies here very well.

With the pay-by-weight, the fee is paid on food taken. Here the restaurant wants the customer to take more of the heavy, cheap foods and less of the light expensive foods. There are a few ways to do this. A clever way is to stock good fruit. Fruit is cheap but heavy with water. Getting the customer to load up on fruit (or similar cheap, heavy items) off-sets reduced profits from meats, sushi and the such. Rice is always profitable. You'll never find the meat and sushi near the enterance! Indeed, they have a different scale for desserts because it is just too light.

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