Any person heading to an expensive buffet restaurant thinking the higher-priced buffet meal is worth the money is probably just being duped into thinking so.
A study suggests that all-you-can-eat restaurants may have been leading consumers to believe that they are getting better deals for food just because they are paying more.
Published in the Journal of Sensory Studies, the research conducted by Cornell Food and Brand Lab found that when customers are charged more for an all-you-can-eat buffet, they tend to rate the food higher than when charged less for the same food.
In the study, participants were divided into two groups, and made to pay a different price for the same buffet meals. The experiment revealed that the group who paid more expressed a higher satisfaction rate than those who paid less.
The findings highlighted that consumers generally tend to think that the quality of food is better just because restaurants charged a higher price, regardless of the food’s actual quality.
"People set their expectation of taste partially based on the price—and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I didn’t pay much it can’t be that good. Moreover, each slice is worse than the last. People really ended up regretting choosing the buffet when it was cheap,” said Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management professor David Just, one of the study’s authors.
Some buffet restaurants also employ strategies to discourage customers from taking larger quantities of food, according to Dollars and Sense. Diners do this by presenting dishes in smaller quantities. Not only does doing so increase the perceived value of the dish, but it also makes consumers take less and leave the rest for other patrons.
Such tactics, in addition to reduced expenses in food preparation and individual services, make for higher revenue for the restaurant if done right.
Of course there are those who are able to beat such systems by using a methodology of their own, as one dude from London who pushed the AYCE buffets to their limits.