A large red sign saying "eat up everything on your plate - or else" may seem like rather unneccessary decor for an all-you-can-eat buffet - after all, the whole point of going to a buffet of limitless visits to the food counter is to eat up everything on your plate not once but several times. Still, there are some diners who take the concept of all-you-can-eat as a personal challenge and will make a mission of cramming second, third and fourth helpings onto their plates only to have to throw away all their unwanted sustenance in the end.
In order to discourage this kind of wasteful dining, popular Nigerian restaurant Obalende Suya Express in Dalston, East London, has initiated a warning and fine system for those diners who attend their Grill Greedy Sunday night buffet. The main attraction at the Obalende Suya Express buffet is the traditional Nigerian suya dish: different types of meat are sliced, put on skewers and cooked on a specially designed grill with suya spices. All this is served with jollof rice, pounded yam, asaro (yam and potato), plantains, snails, fish and beans. Restaurant owners Lara and Toks Odebunmi noticed that patrons kept helping themselves to more food than they could finish "just because it was there" and were leaving so much on their plates it was a shame to throw it all away. So they installed a large red sign reminding their customers to eat up - or else pay a fine.
If caught wasting food, diners are asked to pay an 18 per cent surcharge on top of the buffet set price of £13.95. All collected fines go straight to Oxfam - and the scheme has been a success. Customers have discovered that, shockingly, you don't have to eat all you can at an all-you-can-eat buffet - strange but true. The restaurant's regulars and new visitors choose more carefully and are happy to pay the fine should they be foolish enough to incur it, having been reminded that they are lucky to be faced with so much food when there are others in the world who are unlikely to ever see as much in one sitting.
Conscious eating is a radical thing for a restaurant to attempt; to encourage their customers to choose sensible amounts, to think about waste and to really appreciate what they're getting while knowing that if they do fail their own appetites, Oxfam will get some benefit... while we've given tips on What to Order, maybe it's time now to offer guidance on How To Eat.