If you do it wrong, eating at an 'All You Can Eat' buffet place can be overpriced and underwhelming. But if you do it right, certain tactics can ensure you get your money's worth. This entry, compiled from a thread I started for the purpose on Ask h2g2, is an attempt to codify these tactics, so that you too can get the most out of your buffet experience.
What to Eat
Certain very popular foods tend to swell in the stomach or otherwise reduce appetite. While fantastic for a normal meal meant to set those hunger pangs firmly at bay for another few hours, it is a disaster when you have as much food as you like and want to pack lots of it in.
"Hit the cheap carbs like noodles, rice and potatoes last. Turn to them if you still need filled up at the end."KB
"From a recent experience, in future I'd avoid a plateful of fried food to start, made me feel slightly queasy and *almost* diminished my appetite."deb
"It never ceases to puzzle me why some folk go to a Chinese buffet and return with plate after plate piled high with chips Isn't a chip shop a cheaper way if you like chips that much?"winnoch2
Of course, a buffet restaurant is still a restaurant, and it makes sense to capitalize on any opportunities that don't normally arise when you are eating at home.
"Take mainly the food that you would not cook at home and pick the most expensive stuff."Tavaron da Quirm
"No matter how full you are: get dessert."Tavaron da Quirm
"As we are here talking about buffets I think a general goal is also to try as many different dishes as you can. So especially at the beginning you should not be greedy and take too much of the same food - this would limit the amount of other food you can try."Tavaron da Quirm
If your intention is not to gorge yourself, one questions your choice of eatery altogether, yet there are still ways to proceed.
"Coming from the other side of things, if you're trying to lose weight and want to maintain some control whilst eating what you want, have something colourful on each plateful - by which I mean veg. Some salad, perhaps. I recently went to a place which had crunchy sauteed green beans and baby corn, which I added to each plate. Lovely."deb
How to Eat
Grabbing a corner of the trolleys on which the trays of buffet food are kept, and tipping them towards your open mouth is one (slightly uncouth) approach, but some Researchers counsel caution.
"Pace yourself - graze, don't gorge."swl
"Take small breaks between courses and between finishing one plate and getting the next one."Tavaron da Quirm
Others advise merely structuring the massive amounts of food you help yourself to.
"Load your plate carefully using engineering techniques.Pink Paisley
Take your own large plate."
"Don't be fooled by tiny plates."Tavaron da Quirm
As in every undertaking, preparation is important.
"Wait for the restaurant to open and then spend the whole day there."Stone Aart
"Hit the "all you can eat" buffet immediately after fasting, for medical tests, or whatever."ITIWBS
"If you go there in the evening don't eat much on that day so you will be reasonably hungry and have space in your stomach."Tavaron da Quirm
This opinion is not universally held, though.
"I disagree about not eating earlier in the day - nothing sets me up for lunch like a good breakfast, and nothing sets me up for dinner like a good lunch. I like to think of it as stretching."deb
There are other ways to maximise your value for money too, if you are willing to resort to... underhand methods.
"Smuggle as much food as possible out for later."Icy North
"The strategies of All-You-Can-Eat? Surgery to add an extra stomach."Stone Aart
Where to Have Lunch
Through all this, there remains a deeper question: is it worth opting for an 'All-You-Can-Eat' restaurant at all?
"I always think that the best strategy towards an all-you-can-eat restaurant is to go around the corner to somewhere actually _good_ and eat there instead. They nearly always provide you with enough."Orcus