Never Mind McDonald’s. We Should Ban Buffets

The all-you-can-eat atmosphere only brings out the worst in people

I am in Orlando, Florida as I write this, staying at the Nickelodeon hotel. It is the most wonderful place in the world — if you are six years old.

Fortunately, I have a six-year-old son so it works out. Unfortunately, I have not quite been able to get into the unique offerings of the hotel.

For instance, twice a day a mass of people gather under a 20-foot bucket perched atop a five-story water slide and chant “Slime, Slime, Slime!” They will stand there for 15 or 20 minutes until the bucket tips, pouring green-colored water on their heads. Actually, for this activity most of the chanters seemed to be middle-age men; the same men who chanted, “toga, toga, toga,” at their fraternity 30 years ago.

As for my six-year-old, when I explained to him why the people were gathered and what was going to happen, he looked at me and said, “I don’t want to do that.” I was so proud.

But the far worse activity is when masses of people gather three times a day to have a bucket full of food poured down their throats at the buffet. Again, this seems to be a predominantly adult activity, which is why they charge grownups two and a half times more than the kids.[SIGNUP]

Children seemed nonplussed by the offerings before them. Most don’t even finish their one plate of strawberries, green Jell-O, macaroni and cheese, and chicken strips. Nickelodeon is brilliant to locate the game room so close to the café. It cuts down on the mac and cheese purchase orders. My wife had to negotiate with my six- and three-year-old to eat anything at all. “You eat three strawberries and six spoonfuls of the mac and cheese, and you can go to the game room.” To which my six-year-old Michael says, “One strawberry, three spoonfuls of mac and cheese, some chocolate pudding and a cookie.” He was also representing the interest of my three-year-old David. The negotiations continued for some time until my wife ordered a bottle of wine and I went to the buffet to get the kids some chocolate pudding.

I heard several other parents having similar negotiations with their children. The café apparently sells a lot of wine and chocolate pudding.

The buffet is proof positive that we should be as concerned with adult obesity as childhood obesity. If you don’t think buffets contribute to our current obesity epidemic, I offer Las Vegas as exhibit A. Las Vegas is the all-you-can-eat buffet capital of the world. Have you seen the adults walking the strip? Your honor, the prosecution rests.

I watched adults at the buffet pile food so high on a plate that they had to push their chin down on the croissant at the top of the pile to hold everything together as they baby-stepped back to the table. I don’t quite get the tonnage piled on the first plate, since you’re allowed to go up as many times as you want. My wife explained that people don’t like to be seen going up more than once or twice; it’s embarrassing. So carrying two plates while precariously balancing food like an Ed Sullivan act is less embarrassing? Seriously, when some people made it back to their tables I wanted to applaud.

I didn’t because I would have been a hypocrite. You see I too was in an all-you-can-eat trance. Suddenly eating a salad, two strips of prime rib, chicken cordon bleu, some alleged mahimahi, a plate of pasta, sides, a slice of apple pie and three cups of chocolate mousse at one sitting was perfectly normal. It was the biggest loser, only in reverse of the TV show. But I was still the biggest loser at the buffet.

Buffet veterans, three times my size, were ready to crown me “most promising rookie.”

I think, for me, it has more to do with the cost than with the need to stuff myself until my pants ripped at the seams. You are so used to getting ripped off at Sea World, Universal and Disney with $6 Cokes and $20 plastic Shamus that your kids will never touch again, that you take your revenge at the buffet. My mindset was to make the hotel not only lose money on the $21.95 they charged me, but also my two $8.95 kids now at the Game Zone and my wife who’s dieting and had a salad.

I was stretched out with five plates around me, my pants unbuckled, my head tilted back over the plastic café chair nearing a food coma, while Sponge Bob Square Pants posed for pictures. But I was satisfied that I got my money’s worth and then some.

And that is why buffets should be banned. If the food police are going after Happy Meals and sugary drinks, how can they ignore the elephants in the room? And I am not speaking figuratively. If you don’t ban it, then tax it, maybe by the pound. Politicians love to find vices to tax, but most eat at places like the Capital Grille and may not know buffets even exist. The other problem is that the only thing senior citizens love more than buffets is voting.

Since kids can’t vote, the politicians will continue to go after school lunches, McDonald’s and soda pop, while the adult elephant parade continues at the trough, cleverly euphemized as a buffet.

With my renewed confidence that society only cares about childhood obesity and not my upcoming obesity, I am going back for another plate. That yellowish pudding substance looked good. I do hope Dora the Explorer knows CPR.

LARRY MENDTE writes for The Philly Post every Monday and Thursday. See his previous columns here. To watch his video commentaries, go to