Confessions of a brunch-aholic
Yesterday I went for brunch with some friends. For some reason, brunch in Sweden is not limited to brunch time (breakfast + lunch = brunch for me) but can be eaten all day. And it’s always buffet style, which I love. I actually dream about brunch. Buffet and tapas are my favourite ways of eating because I love to taste a little of everything. Not to mention, the quantity is unlimited!!!
Except this time, it wasn’t. We arrived towards the end of service and we were pretty disappointed to find that some of the food was already finished. We were honestly a bit shitty with the wait staff when they told us that they couldn’t refill the deserts and the smoothies. Even when they explained that they typically only prepare enough food to supply the number of people that have made bookings for the day.
So, despite the fact that there actually was quite a lot of food, and no one had to leave hungry, we went around grumbling and complaining as we stuffed our faces.
It wasn’t until later when (still grumbling) I talked to my husband about our brunch experience, that he made me reflect a little bit about what I was actually saying. I talk a lot about reducing waste, and am obsessed with food waste in particular. Now, here was a restaurant that was apparently trying to be responsible about food waste and I was complaining because they only had four different deserts available for me! That’s hardly walking the walk!
That really got me thinking about buffets and food waste. I just literally figured out that buffets must be hugely wasteful. Not sure how I missed that earlier but I was probably blinded by cake! Not literally—that would be horrific!
The amount of unknowns in buffet service inevitably make it very wasteful. For example, studies estimate that little less than half the food served at hotel breakfast buffets remains uneaten. Much of the waste comes from food that must be prepared just in case people show up to eat it. Food that has been sitting out in a buffet has to be thrown out after a certain period of time because it may no longer be safe to eat.
But an element of greed also feeds into the wastefulness of buffets—pun intended! A lot of food is wasted because people take more than they can finish. We also eat way more than we probably should at buffets. Because we want to get our money’s worth?!? Overconsumption adds nothing positive to our experience, is not good for our health, and is terrible for the environment. Pure waste.
Many restauranteurs are working to make their buffets less wasteful. For example, shifting certain items to à la carte cooking near the end of the buffet to reduce waste without negatively impacting customer experience, or safely reusing untouched food in other dishes.
As consumers we can also be careful about waste when we eat at buffets. Taking small portions and making sure to eat everything can help. Some restaurants have a policy of charging customers for what they don’t eat in order to encourage them to be more thoughtful.
Ultimately though, I think that if you take food waste seriously, you can’t really be okay with eating in a way that is so obscenely wasteful. So whenever possible, I’m not eating from the buffet any more. I’m almost crying writing this. But I’m trying to walk the walk!