Fine with a Fine?

In American Wasteland, I wrote about a buffet in London that charges a fee for food left uneaten and donates the proceeds to Oxfam. This editorial advocating that buffet restaurants fine patrons for uneaten food caught my eye.

The idea stemmed from a seafood restaurant in Sapporo that is pretty particular about how customers eat salmon roe. Customers decide how much of the red roe and rice (tsukko meshi) they want, but must make a donation to the fisherman who supply the restaurant if they leave food uneaten, as the post explains:

According to the explanation in the menu, the working conditions for fishermen are harsh and so dangerous that it’s not unknown for lives to be lost. To show our gratitude and appreciation for the food they provide, it is forbidden to leave even one grain of rice in your bowl. Customers who do not finish their tsukko meshi must give a donation.

The rule has a certain grace to it, connecting customers to their food and its origins. It would seem to be about mindful eating–not mere economics or punishment.

For all of us who preach reducing waste, it’s the ultimate form of putting your money where your mouth is. Yet, I have a hard time seeing it actually happen here in the States, at buffets or just with a certain dish.

Culturally, the all-you-can-eat buffet seems fairly ingrained. And this arrangement that virtually incentivizes us to eat until we “get our money’s worth,” is the real culprit, prompting overeating and waste. Paying by weight, common at supermarket hot bars and elsewhere, seems like a better arrangement.

What do you make of the idea–would you patronize an all-you-can-eat buffet with a fine for uneaten food? And would it matter if the fee went to support farmers or a food relief agency or just the restaurant?

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