10 tried-and-tested buffet strategies to get the best bang for your buck
Buffets are the perfect opportunity to indulge in our appetites occasionally.
The problem is, buffets can get very expensive. An all-you-can-eat lunch buffet can cost as much as $40 for each person, and that's not inclusive of GST and service charge.
Most of us visit a buffet restaurant with the intention of devouring as much food as we can while savouring the most worth-it items. But what are the strategies to do so?
Across the DollarsAndSense team, all of us have a fair bit of experience in all-you-can-eat buffets. So, here are 10 tried-and-tested buffet hacks we have shortlisted which will hopefully help you get the best bang for your buck!
#1 DON'T STARVE YOURSELF BEFORE THE BUFFET
Contrary to popular belief, you should not starve yourself with the idea that you can eat more during the buffet. Skipping lunch so that you can eat more during dinner can backfire, as you will be more likely to experience stomach cramps before you can even finish your first plate of food.
Instead, you should keep yourself hydrated throughout the day and choose lighter food options such as soup, yogurt, and cereals beforehand. Avoid deep-fried snacks and alcohol before you embark on your buffet adventure.
#2 NEVER START WITH DESSERTS
Desserts such as cake, ice cream, and fruit tarts contain artificial sweeteners which can cause bloating. Fructose, a type of sugar added to many processed foods, is not easily digestible and can cause gas. Sorbitol, an artificial sweetener usually found in cookies and icings, cannot be digested completely.
Bloating can cause your stomach to feel full. To save space, avoid or limit desserts before a large buffet meal. There's always space for desserts, just make sure that it comes last.
#3 AIM FOR THE HIGH-VALUE ITEMS LIKE SEAFOOD FIRST
It is easy to get distracted by the array of items in a buffet restaurant. But, don't lose sight on the seafood counter, especially if your buffet has a time limit.
Fresh seafood items such as lobsters, oysters, crabs, prawns, and sashimi are very costly. Unlike meat and vegetables, seafood are premium items and must be deshelled or shucked daily to ensure good quality.
Extra services such as having a chef pick out seafood from the live station before grilling it on the spot also adds to the overall value of seafood.
#4 IF YOU SEE AN ITEM RUNNING OUT, WAIT FOR THE NEXT BATCH
Do not get overly excited and grab that last piece of lamb you see on the tray, which might have been left out for a long time. Instead, wait for the chefs to prepare a new batch and replace the existing tray. That way, you ensure that you'll have the freshest and warmest cuts of meat.
#5 USE MANY SMALL PLATES INSTEAD OF BIG PLATES
Instead of piling one large plate with the same food item, using several small plates will limit the amount of every food item you take. This means you'll have a bit of wagyu, some samples of lamb, and seafood items to taste.
Furthermore, research has shown that using smaller plates can trick your brain to think that you are eating less. Some people who are looking to lose weight use this technique to deceive themselves into eating less. But on the other hand, the converse could work. You might think that every small plate is just an insignificant addition to your intake and might continue to eat more.
If your goal in an all-you-can-eat buffet is to stuff yourself, using many small plates to fool your brain is the way to go.
#6 AVOID THE RICE AND NOODLES
Rice and noodles are probably one of the cheapest items on the buffet table, which is why you should avoid them like the plague.
Furthermore, rice and noodles are carbs which are starchy foods that contain high fibre. Consuming them can make you feel full very easily and quickly.
#7 AVOID FOODS YOU CAN EASILY PREPARE AT HOME
In some continental breakfast buffets, you might see the all-too-familiar scrambled eggs and bratwurst sausages. Or, you might see grilled chicken cutlets in buffet restaurants during dinnertime.
These (mostly frozen) food items can be easily prepared at home without much time or effort. Instead, you should choose premium items such as unagi sushi, which is expensive and requires a lot of effort to prepare and make.
The rule of thumb is, do not eat everything you see. Instead, walk around the restaurant first before picking out what you want.
#8 GO FOR LUNCH DEALS INSTEAD OF DINNER
Generally, lunch buffet sets are cheaper compared to dinner sets. This is an issue of supply and demand -on weekdays, the office crowd is unlikely to visit a buffet restaurant due to time constraints, while for dinner, families and couples are more likely to indulge in a buffet meal.
Usually, there is a greater variety of food items during dinner periods, which also explains why all-you-can-eat buffet dinners usually cost more expensive. But if you are looking to save money, go for the lunch deals.
#9 TAKE ADVANTAGE OF BIRTHDAY FOR THE GROUP
If you are planning to feast at a buffet restaurant with a group of friends, choose a restaurant that has discounts for larger groups. For example, the fifth person gets to eat for free if there are four paying customers.
If you are celebrating a friend's birthday, check out which restaurants will offer birthday promotions or other privileges. Do not forget to check if any of the existing promotions are tied to a credit card you own. You will be able to gain more points and benefits if you pay using that card.
#10 USE DISCOUNTS PROVIDED BY FOOD RESERVATION APPS
Lastly, don't forget to make a reservation online and seize promotions and discounts at the same time!
Mobile apps such as Eatigo, Chope, Burpple Beyond, and Fave will leave you spoilt for choice as you explore the myriad of restaurants available on the app. Have the freedom to see all the 50 per cent discounts available and thousands of other offers before choosing the day and time you would like to visit.
This article was first published in Dollars and Sense.