Unlimited Food Restaurants or buffet restaurants, a concept that originated around the 16th century, is gaining momentum once again. A unique concept where customers can choose between a variety of dishes, it usually includes self-service. Thanks to its versatility, varied food options and unlimited servings at a reasonable price, buffets continue to be one of the most popular choices for customers. Large hotel chains have since extended buffet services to attract more customers. However, many Buffet Service Restaurants like Barbeque Nation and Band Baaja Baaraat have been persistently upping their game by offering unlimited buffet meals at reasonable prices to their customers.
While buffet restaurants are becoming a popular choice for customers, introducing buffet service for a new restaurant may be advantageous or disastrous. Therefore, before deciding whether a buffet-style business model will align with your restaurant goals, consider their pros and cons to decide whether this restaurant concept works for you.
Pros And Cons Of Buffet Or Unlimited Food Restaurants
Unilever Food Solutions suggests four common types of buffet services in restaurants.
- Simple Buffet – As the name suggests, it is a simple buffet where guests serve themselves from a variety of food options at a buffet line. Restaurant staff is available to help guests with minor requests.
- Station-type Buffet – Beverages are offered to the customers by servers while diners can avail everything else from the buffet table.
- Modified Deluxe Buffet – Here, buffet tables are set with cutlery. Servers offer beverages, coffee, and dessert to the guests at their tables. All the other food items are provided on the buffet line.
- Deluxe Buffet – Servers offer appetizers, soup and/or salads and beverages to diners at their tables. Customers can choose from a multitude of main course options and desserts from the dishes displayed on the long table.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of buffet restaurants
Benefits Of Buffet Restaurants
Saves Labor Cost: The emphasis of buffet service restaurants is more on food than services. A restaurant operating a buffet service can serve a large number of diners with minimal staff. Even though servers would be needed for serving appetizers or beverages to the guests, the requirement for the front of house staff is less compared to table services. With fewer servers, you can bring a significant reduction in labor costs and concentrate more on improving the quality of food being served to the customers.
Attracts more customers: One of the main reasons for customers choosing unlimited restaurants is that they are cost-effective. Buffets make it easier for restaurateurs to offer a variety of dishes to their guests at once. The value pricing of buffet meals for the array of food options it provides makes it a steal for customers. When compared to plated servings in table service restaurants, having the same variety could cost them more. Overall, buffet restaurants are a popular choice amongst corporates and families. As these restaurants are attracting more customers, it makes the buffet concept more profitable.
Reduced Inventory Costs: Preparing buffet meals requires the consumption of inventory quantities in bulk. There is less spoilage as the inventory levels are restocked in a timely fashion. Buffet Meals also allow the chefs to experiment and rotate the dishes, according to the inventory levels. Buffet restaurants offer diners a wide variety of food options to choose from. A tasting menu like arrangement limits the need to alter food according to customer’s preferences and saves the consumption of inventory to provide extra portions.
Improves profit margins: Buffet restaurants can help restaurateurs in cutting food costs and increase their profit margins. However, it greatly depends on menu innovation. As long as restaurant operators understand how to price their buffet menu competitively whilst offering value to their customers, the buffet restaurant business model can increase profit margins substantially. Buffet restaurant chains like Barbeque Nation have priced their weekday buffet menu slightly lower than the weekend menu. This attracts customers even on the slow days.
Drawbacks Of Buffet Restaurants
Food Wastage: One of the most significant disadvantages of having buffet service is the wastage of food. A buffet meal typically requires large quantities of food offering single or multiple cuisines. However, there is no guarantee of the entire meal being consumed on a single day. Often times, diners tend to serve too much food on their plates which results in unnecessary food wastage. Food wastage is not only unethical but in the long run, it may lead to higher food costs and low profits.
Difficulty in Managing a Buffet Arrangement: Managing a buffet arrangement requires proper management. Restaurant managers need to analyze the spaces for food presentation and readily maintain food safety. They have to ensure that the servers and kitchen staff are refilling the containers whilst maintaining hygiene standards. Unlike table service restaurants, where food is directly served on the tables right from the kitchen, restaurant staff has to keep a proper check on food temperatures for both hot and cold food items.
Customer Perception: In spite of the unique combination of multi-variety food and ambiance, diners may prefer table service over buffet service. A busy day in a buffet restaurant may attract chaos around the buffet line and result in mismanagement. Unlimited Food restaurants limit the scope of customizations for customers. The meal is prepared at once, and special preparation requests by customers might not be addressed.
If you want to offer a plethora of great food options at reasonable prices to your customers, unlimited food restaurants may be a perfect choice. However, if you wish to offer remarkable services and a lavish setting of food and beverages priced at a premium, having buffet service at your restaurant might be an option for special occasions. But choosing whether to begin or expand your restaurant business to an unlimited food restaurant concept comes down to your restaurant’s business model. Before forming the decision, think about your restaurant’s long-term goals, consider the benefits and drawbacks of buffet services and make a wise choice!