Due to a pulled muscle and some cuts from a mishap, my right hand has been a bandaged, painful and clumsy paw this week. My injury did however give me some perspective on the downsides of hotel breakfast buffets. This was my early morning colloquy with a harried hostess at a hotel restaurant:
“We have a buffet”, she announced, in a bright tone that suggested that I had just won something.
“I know, but I would like to order something instead”, I responded.
“You don’t want the buffet?”
“No, thanks. Could you just bring me a vegetarian omelette and brown toast?”
“There are eggs and toast on the buffet” she said, almost pleading.
I then explained that I wasn’t trying to be difficult, but that I couldn’t use my right hand very well and was afraid that I would drop a plate full of hot food. She was very nice about it and put in my order.
The wait was a long one, and I don’t yet have the dexterity to easily read a newspaper, so I just watched people eat. It was quite a sight, as sleepy travelers piled their plates high, some doing so multiple times. This is not surprising: When given a wide range of choices, such as a well-stocked buffet, people tend to overeat. This is even more common when people are sleep-deprived or jet lagged, which can disrupt the functioning of the hormones that signal when to start and stop eating.
The other thing everyone was eating was jobs. Two staff members rocketed this way and that, pouring coffee and getting the checks for all the customers in the restaurant ($15 a crack for the buffet). No wonder they pushed the buffet: They don’t really have time to wait on anyone for more than a few moments.
If fewer frequent travelers meekly accepted the hotel buffet, hotels would have to hire more wait staff, which would lower unemployment. Overeating by travelers would be less common, which would benefit their health. That’s enough for me to resist the buffet from here on out and encourage others to do likewise, even if I don’t take the time to envision how much cooked but uneaten food is dumped into the trash in the nation’s hotels at the end of every breakfast shift. If you are willing to join the movement, please tip generously. Even though table orders typically cost slightly more than the buffet (mine was an extra two bucks), a buffet opt-out strategy will make things harder on wait staff by raising their workload in the short term until management wises up and hires more employees.