Providing Abundance

I recently received this comment from Brett, a student at Allegheny College, on his school’s dining practices:

the reasoning I get for the overpreparation is so they don’t run out of any item. The rationale is you are supposed to be able to come at the last minute of the meal (9:59 for breakfast, 1:29 for lunch, and 7:59 for dinner) and still be able to have access to every item on the menu. Plus, they overcharge us so much for our meal plans, it’s no big loss to them to toss leftovers.

That same logic reigns in the catering industry. I’ve been told by countless caterers that the worst thing that could happen would be if they ran out of food. I think anthrax or even food poisoning would be worse, but that’s just me.

As a result, caterers prepare 10 to 20 percent more food than they need and end up throwing away a good amount. That’s just absurd. When I worked for a catering company, they often let the servers eat dinner from what remained. We feasted on all kinds of goodies, and usually there was still way too much that often ended up in the trash.

I understand why party hosts want to overpay (through catering companies’ overcharging) to ensure that the food never runs out. It’s part of the perception of being a good host. Feeding everyone is great; ensuring gluttony less so.

The same happens in the restaurant industry, where they *hate* missing the chance to sell you something. The fear is that you’ll go to the competition. But what’s really at stake at a catered event? A brief moment of disappointment?

What do you mean I can’t have my seventh pig-in-a-blanket?! (Pause)
OK, I’ll have my eighth spanikopita, instead.

We’re all adults here–we can handle it. Same goes for the college cafeteria. Hey, you show up a minute before closing, maybe expecting to have the full range of options is unrealistic.

Casey's DinerMy all-time favorite restaurant–Casey’s Diner, in Natick, Mass.–often runs out of hot dogs or burgers by the end of the night. They only order enough supplies for the day to ensure the freshest food possible. If that means, ten minutes before closing, some folks might have to order a grilled cheese instead of a hot dog, so be it.

Works for me. How about you?

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2 Comments

  1. Dave
    Posted April 26, 2008 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    No it doesn’t work for most people. Yes there should be every choice 10 minutes before closing at a campus cafeteria, they are paying just as much right?

  2. Posted April 26, 2008 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    You make a sound point that students pay just as much no matter what time they come. Of course, the flip side is that the expectation of full buffets at five or one-minute before closing leads to a lot of waste.

    Also, I don’t think you (or anyone) can speak for ‘most people.’

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