A buffet seems like a great deal for consumers – especially the hungry ones. They pay a fixed amount, walk into a buffet restaurant hungry and then gorge on as much food as they want without paying more.

Naturally, it’s no surprise that everyone loves all-you-can-eat buffets.

But how can restaurants afford these? No doubt, if you own a restaurant and are considering offering a buffet option, you are probably asking yourself – Are buffets profitable? Or will they just be a cash drain on the rest of your business?

As with any other business, the profitability (or lack thereof) of a buffet business depends on many factors including the price per person, the types of foods, the type of customer, the extras that a customer pays for, etc. It also depends on your overall strategy.

For instance, if the buffet is just a way to drive footfall into your restaurant so that the same people return for a-la-carte dining some other time, the profitability of the buffet business may not be your highest priority. Maybe the footfall is the success metric to measure.

This article will analyze the top strategies that you can deploy for your buffet business to increase the likelihood of it becoming a successful part of your restaurant business.

When Are Buffets Profitable? – Strategies for Success

Here are some of the top strategies you can deploy to have a successful buffet restaurant business:

  1. Offer a-la-carte options
  2. Limit the choices
  3. Focus on quality
  4. Offer discounts
  5. Charge for drinks
  6. Offer upfront foods that fill you up
  7. Create a unique experience

1. Offer a la carte options

Many restaurants make the mistake of thinking that a buffet has to be an all-or-nothing proposition. However, offering both a buffet and a la carte options can actually increase your chances of profitability.

This is because some customers may not want to partake in the buffet for various reasons (they’re not that hungry, they don’t like buffets, etc.), so giving them the option to order off of a menu will increase your chances of making a sale.

Also, remember that some people could be on a diet or on a healthy food eating mission and may shun the buffet to avoid over-eating. For them, an a-la-carte option can be a great alternative.

2. Limit the choices

When it comes to buffet restaurants, more is not always better. In fact, offering too many choices can actually lead to lower profits.

This is because you will need to invest in the many different types of foods but customers will only eat as much as they can eat. And so there is a greater risk of wastage.

Of course, offering too few options isn’t so great either because people will feel they got a bad deal. So finding the sweet spot between too many choices and too few choices is where the best profits are to be found.

3. Focus on quality

Just like with any other type of restaurant, the quality of the food is important. Customers are willing to pay more for a buffet that offers high-quality, fresh food.

On the other hand, if you scrimp on quality, you will need to drop the price of the buffet to the point that you will have very low margins and will need to rely on a large number of people showing up each day for your cheap buffet.

Therefore, it’s important to focus on offering quality items rather than quantity. Combine this point with the previous one and offer fewer choices but at the highest quality that you can manage.

4. Offer discounts

One way to increase profits is to offer discounts for customers who come during off-peak hours. This will entice customers to come during times when the restaurant is typically not as busy.

This way you can regulate the flow of people and have more people eating in a single meal window which can lead to increased profits.

You could also offer discounts to groups or discounts to employees of certain large companies in your neighborhood.

5. Charge for drinks

When people know they are at an all-you-can-eat buffet for a fixed price, they are more likely to gorge themselves and order several rounds of drinks.

It makes no sense to include free drinks (other than free tap water) in a fixed-price buffet deal.

You should charge for drinks separately from the buffet price. This way, you can increase your profits without having to raise the price of the buffet.

And customers who don’t want to pay more for the buffet can stick to tap water.

6. Offer upfront foods that fill you up

This is a sneaky trick that many buffets use. Before hitting the main courses if customers fill themselves up with foods like bread that expand in the stomach once eaten, they will be less likely to eat as much of the more expensive buffet items.

So don’t hesitate to put a basket full of bread on the table that customers consume with their drinks even before they head to the buffet line. Of course, customers will still leave the restaurant completely stuffed and so they will feel that they’ve gotten their money’s worth.

A nice win-win for both sides!

7. Create a unique experience

Finally, it’s important to create a unique experience for customers so that they keep coming back. The unique experience can be about the food – may be a special dish that isn’t always on the menu, or a special fusion cuisine that makes people interested in coming back to your restaurant.

And unique experiences do not have to be limited to food.

You could offer live music, theme nights, or other special events. The point is that by creating memorable experiences, you’ll increase the chances that customers will return.

And, most of all, return when there is no buffet and happily order from the a-la-carte menu.


So there you have it – 7 strategies to make buffets more profitable: Offer a-la-carte options; Limit the choices; Focus on quality; Offer discounts; Charge for drinks; Offer upfront foods that fill you; Create a unique experience.

Of course, each buffet is different and so you’ll need to experiment to see which of these strategies will work best for your restaurant and for your customers.

But by following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to increasing profits and making your buffet more successful than ever.