May 5, 2006

"They take four egg rolls and crab rangoon, take one bite of egg roll and throw the whole plate. That is wasting food."

Kicked out of an all-you-can-eat restaurant for taking more than you eat.
"We would welcome her back if she has respect and knows what she wants."

Damn it! Show some respect!


Wickedpinto said...

Has there been mention of whether or not the food sucked?

37383938393839383938383 said...

Dragon House manager Kent Cao said his restaurant offers all you can eat buffet, not all you can waste. Dershem's family took food, didn't finish it and then piled on the same food again, he said.

"Shes done that too many times," Cao said.

Bissage said...

They deserved worse than they got!

That was for you, wickedpinto.

Ann Althouse said...

I support the restaurant owner. It's all you can eat. You are invited to take what you can eat. If you take things you don't eat, it's the same as stealing. She had no permission to take things to throw in the trash. What if Cao's competitors paid for a meal and then loadedup plate after plate just to toss in the trash? She's lucky she wasn't arrested.

A more subtle question is whether, if you take more than you can eat, you've got to leave it to be thrown out, or whether it's acceptable to take it with you. It would seem that taking things with you is an even worse violation.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

Bow down to the buffet, beyotch! Respect!

Just kidding.

I totally side with the restaurant owner too. It sounds like this woman was making a habit of being purposefully wasteful - or at least letting her kids do that. And the fact that she went to the media after being asked to leave a restaurant backs up the implication that she's probably pretty obnoxious.

Bissage said...

Ann Althouse said: "[They're] lucky [they] w[ere]n't arrested."


[My, that was awkward.]

Unknown said...

Why is this news?

tiggeril said...

"They told us we are not welcome there anymore," said Dershem, a repeat customer at the Dragon House buffet. "We waste too much food. But the buffet is all you can eat. And you know kids. They won't always eat everything and they want something else."

Isn't the whole point of a buffet that you only take what you want?

Ann Althouse said...

It's news because a woman didn't know how to say "I'm terribly sorry."

MadisonMan said...

It's news because a woman didn't know how to say "I'm terribly sorry."

Bingo. Whatever happened to shame? What a wonderful example she's setting for her children, too. I wonder if they were or were not well-behaved in the restaurant.

Laura Reynolds said...

Well if she's made habit of it, heck yeah. My kids get "eyes bigger than their stomach" at the buffet sometimes but sounds like this was a lot more than that.

Its like my parents always said:
"There are people starving in Chinese Buffets, eat your food."

Sanjay said...

Obviously the food didn't suck (at least for her), she was a repeat customer.

But: Oh! Oh! Oh! my brilliant idea: flat fee for all you can eat, make it low, then an additional fee, charged by weight or volume, for food left on the plate.

Would people go for it? No.

But it rocks anyway.

HaloJonesFan said...

Just about every Chinese buffet table I've encountered has a "take all you want, but eat all you take" sign. I never thought it made anything but sense.

As usual, we're seeing the issue of private behavior being made public. These kids don't see mealtime as a time to eat a meal--they see it as a continuation of their 24-hour playtime. Food is not to be enjoyed as food; it's props for play.

Or maybe they're just like this guy:

Bissage said...

Why is this news, downtownlad? Huh? Huh? Why is this news?

Because some people are bad faith jerks who need to get smacked back into place. That's why!

And the same goes for anybody else who's thinking of taking unfair advantage and ruining it for everybody else!

You want a piece of me?! You want a piece of me?!

Woah. Too much Monosodium Glutamate.

Stephanie Carnes said...

Sanjay: I've been to a Korean buffet in Chicago that did exactly that; the food you left was weighed, and you were charged, say, $0.99/lb for what you didn't eat.

It made me choose very carefully - not because the price was so high, but because I thought it would be embarrassing to be assessed for the food I didn't eat.

Ann Althouse said...

And note that the woman went all out to give this poor businessman bad press.

Troy said...

4 words: "Shakey's Weigh a Lunch". Put the pizza, chicken, mojo potatos, and salad (that icky green rabbit food) on the scale. It was either a challenge to get the most or peer pressure to stay under $4.00.

Alas -- Shakey's has reverted to a bastardized (or is that rat bastardized??) Chuck E. Cheese (assuming Chuck has known parentage).

I'm with the restaurant owner -- you eat what you take unless it is bad qualityor you're trying something new and don't know you hate it.

The woman must not be a member of a protected group or her lawyer would've dropped the trump card.

Nels said...

Part of being a parent is eating what your children don't finish.

Laura Reynolds said...


I draw the line when it already been chewed and rejected

tiggeril said...

Come to think of it, it's rather strange that the only food item sold by weight at my alma mater's dining hall was salad. You'd think they'd charge by weight for all the unhealthy stuff instead.

Unknown said...

I read the whole story and didn't see where she does this all the time...

Where I live, when you go into an Asian community to eat, you take your chances. I was once loudly scolded for sending back a "mild" chicken bowl, asking meekly if they perhaps mixed up my order, loaded down with a pile of hot peppers, with someone else's. In a Dim sum restaurant, we were ignored completely for 10 minutes and finally got up and left. A former student opened a restaurant and advertised it as, basically, welcoming "outsiders." Don't know the outcome of that one, but I hope for the best.

Freeman Hunt said...

There's a buffet place in our town where you can get take-out. Take-out = all you can fit into one styrofoam container with the lid closed.

I am in awe of the amount of food some people are able to squeeze into those things. The lids will be open with a pile of food some 8 to 10 inches high. Then when it's checkout time, the food is smashed and compacted to get the lid down. Amazing.

tiggeril said...


Joan said...

My kids love the Chinese buffet, but we're very careful about what we give them, especially if they are being adventurous and trying something new - -just a tiny tasting spoonful, then if they like it, they can have more. That's one of the charms of these places, it's easy to try new things.

I love the response: It's all you can eat, not all you can waste. What a great comeback!

The Drill SGT said...

I hate to say that I had thought that Wendy had lacked the sorts of social skills and manner that I was taught by my middle cass mother.

Then I googled her. Is it possible that Wendy is a Doctor?

Troy said...

DRILL SGT: I don't know if she's a doctor, but even scarier -- when you google her for Des Moines -- her complete home address pops up.

Yet another reason to mind my own business. If I get kicked out by the buffet Nazis I'll pay my respects and eat what I take.

The Drill SGT said...


Only if she shares her apt with Mc Guire, Daniel J MD

He is the next doctor listing below her. I assume it's an office complex.

and the next 4-6 doctors all list the same addy.

Troy said...

Ah... I didn't pursue it further than the residential listing (I guess I didn;t "pursue" anything, but you know what I mean....

bearbee said...

Lack of respect for the blessing of food and oblivious to the fact that there is famine and real starvation in this world.

If the child is known to not always finish what is asked for, then give 1/2 of an egg roll and let them ask for more. And what happened to the concept of the doggy bag?

Ann Althouse said...

Doggy bag at an all-you-can-place?

bearbee said...

If the food is already on one's plate and cannot be eaten, then wrap it up in a napkin and take it home.

Yes, I suppose that could lead to people taking advantage by knowingly loading up with food that they cannot finish. Then perhaps charge them for take-out.......

I like the earlier post on a 'weighing the waste' charge.

Ann Althouse said...

Bearbee: Put the two together and get: weigh the doggy bag. That would be fair.

David said...

It always amazes me that denizens of the buffet have difficulty understanding that you shouldn't put several pounds of food on your first plate.

Trying to explain that concept to a 300 lb. behemoth breathing down your neck as you put one spring roll on your plate and a lttle salad is problematic.

I am totally with the restaurant owner. Whether at a chinese buffet, or any other buffet for that matter, gluttony is not appreciated or tolerated.

That is the difference between eating and dining.

michael farris said...

"That is the difference between eating and dining."

I thought it was the difference between dining and stuffing your face like a starving hyena that just came across a fresh wildebeast carcass. No, the hyena would probably have better manners than some of the buffet-dwellers I've seen.

Anyway, I'm 100% behind the restaurant manager on this one. I suspect poor or non-existant child management skills on the part of this 'customer'.

At last! I'm in the majority! What a strange and novel feeling ....

Bissage said...

Congratulations and enjoy it while it lasts. For me it comes about once a decade.

TWM said...

So following this logic, if I don't clean my plate at any restaurant I am subject to banning?

I seem to be in the minority here, but unless this woman was piling up pounds of food, I think the manager was wrong.

And as to being arrested -- unless this was some roving gang of food non-eaters trying to put the poor guy out of business, I don's see a charge.

The food police aren't just in the government it seems.

Bob Mitze said...

This story reminds me of a joke told by a Norwegian to a mixed group as we were sailing down the Rhine:

At a smorgasboard there were signs in Swedish, English, and German. In Swedish and English the sign read "go up to the table and take as much as you like". In German the sign read "go up to the table and take exactly six items."

Maxine Weiss said...

Made-to-order restaurants aren't all that different. They are throwing lots of food out. Health Department says you can only keep chicken under the warmer for 10 minutes, then it must be discarded.....In California (You should see our landfills!)

There's a lot less waste at buffets.

The restaurant is being unreasonable. That's just part of the cost of doing business. Every restaurant that has a salad bar goes through the same problem. And, organic/fresh produce can cost just as much as red meat.

Lobster tail/claws: Look at all the waste that goes on with that. How much meat is there on a lobster bone?

Ann, if this restaurant was serving all-you-can-eat whole lobster, and customers were coming in and loading up the back of a brinks truck.....then I could see your point. But they aren't serving lobster, filet mignon, or crab legs (probably). It's an Asian place. Rice is cheap cheap cheap. I don't think it's possible to waste rice. There's no shortage and they get it wholesale. Sushi is made from the cheapest (Yuck) cuts of fish.

It's not like their serving cavier and Porterhouse, all-you-can-eat. It's basic rice and pasta, maybe a little chuck & chicken thrown in for good measure.

Breach of contract. Customer pays the bill before hand......reasonable expectation that the skies the limit. All-you-can-eat = all-bets-our-off !!!!

If a 400 lb person walks into Hometown sympathies aren't going to lie with Hometown!

Peace, Maxine

Joan said...

Maxine, I'm sure you know that lobsters don't have bones.

And you're confusing "all you can eat" with "all you can take and then throw away." If the family had actually eaten all the food they had piled on their plates, the management wouldn't have had a problem with them. They weren't throwing away rice, they were throwing away egg rolls and crab rangoon, and who knows what else. And the Chinese buffets around here do have crab legs, and mussels, and one or two shrimp dishes, none of which is as cheap as dark meat chicken or chewy beef.

TWM: There's a difference in paying for a set plate and paying for a buffet. When you buy the set plate, of course you get to bring home leftovers, you've paid for that one plate of food, it's yours. At the buffet, the obvious unspoken agreement is that you take all you can (or want to) eat, while you're at the restaurant. The buffet price does not cover take-out leftovers.

Beth said...

This food is so bad, and the portions are so small!

michael farris said...

By Maxine's logic I'm within my rights to completely empty an all-you-can-eat buffet straight into the trash.

Maxine Weiss said...

OH, Honestly......You really think this place is serving lobster claws (which have not meat on 'em anyway/ all waste), crab legs, and New York filet ?????

They get everything double wholesale, and it's the absolute cheapest cuts of whatever. Asian cuisine is hardly 5-star Escoffier (spelling nightmare).

Buffets are known as loss-leaders. The only people that can afford to run a buffet are casinos with a bottomless supply of cash-flow coming in....and even THEY ended up with all their food thrown in the trash!

Anyone who runs a buffet (without the benefit, or cashflow, of a casino) knows what he/she is getting into.

Hometown and Souplantation are big corporate susbidiaries, and have the support and backing.

It's these little Mom and Pop places with the worst of standards, and cheapest of quality....and then they are gonna try to nickle-n-dime the customer.

I don't think so. These poor little Boat People that come and innocently open a buffet---they are being taken advantage of by greedy, grubby Americans who waste food.

Not buyin' it.

Peace, Maxine

Maxine Weiss said...

It's not real crab. I guarantee you the crab they serve is synthetic/imitation.

All-you-CARE-to-eat, Hahaha. Funny how they are not replacing the word "can" with "care". Like they are pleading with the customer.

These places are for grazing. Dabbling. Sample.

I like the way food looks piled high on a plate.


Or, wretched excess--according to Mom-n-Pop.

Don't open a buffet if you don't like it. But don't gyp me once I pays my way....up front.

Life is unfair.

Read the health reports of some of these places.

Then, tell me how sorry you feel for 'em.

Peace, Maxine

Maxine Weiss said...

"You are invited to take what you can eat"----Ann Althouse

There's no invitation, once money changes hands. Once money changes hands, it becomes a contract.

What would be interesting is if the bill is paid at the end of the meal. If they put parameters mid-meal, and the customer refuses to pay......

someone's goin' to jail....or washing dishes.

Anyone ever been to a restaurant and "forgotten your wallet" ???

Peace, Maxine

Ann Althouse said...

Maxine: It may be a contract, but that doesn't entitle the customer to take more than what she bought. She bought all she can eat, then proceeded to take many things that she didn't eat. Thus, she took things she did not pay for.

Maxine Weiss said...

Well, maybe.

But I still don't like these Mom & Pop immigrants who come over here hanging shingles.....

....and ordering me around.

I like to decorate my plate. If I want spare on a plate----I already get enough of that at home. When I go out, I'm into abundance, hearty riches. If I bother to get myself together, to go out.....I like to see plates and plates of stacked food.

(Of course you don't eat all of it!) You nibble....especially if there's a man sitting across from you. You daintily graze. These restraunt owners don't understand the semiotics of food consumption in terms of male/female dating.

The woman picks at the food. The man can eat heartily. But in either case, you've still got abundance on the table!

When I'm at a restaurant I like the "look" of food, lotsa food everywhere. Yet, I don't necessarily feel the need to gobble it all down.

Of course, being Jewish, every scrap will be loaded into doggy bag and be taken home, naturally.

The customer is always right. It doesn't feel like they are practicing very good hospitality if they are nickle-n-diming their customers. What does good hospitality mean to you?

Peace, Maxine

bearbee said...

It is not limited to this mother and an eggroll-
Half of US food goes to waste

These poor little Boat People that come and innocently open a buffet---they are being taken advantage of by greedy, grubby Americans who waste food.

Not buyin' it.

Is it just possible these boat people have experienced and understand true hunger and are repelled by the sight of wasted food?

I know people who lived through the 1930's depression who are meticulous in conserving food, water, electricity.

With increasing prices in commodities and raw materials and with a potential shortage of clean water, will we be forced to relearn the lessons of personal conservation?

Joan said...

I know people who lived through the 1930's depression who are meticulous in conserving food, water, electricity.

My parents, and to some extent, through their influence, me and all my siblings.

Maxine, I have to believe you're playing Devil's Advocate on this issue. I'm fully on board with the sampling/nibbling/try everything concept of buffets -- but that means taking small portions of each item. If you like to see a full plate, my suggestion is to use the small plates instead of the larger ones!

Freeman Hunt said...

But I still don't like these Mom & Pop immigrants who come over here hanging shingles.....

....and ordering me around.

What an odd comment.

Maxine Weiss said...

No I'm not playing devil's advocate. Because there are other busybody restauranteurs who try to boss customers around. There was that one Las Vegas restaurant that wouldn't let you order dessert. You couldn't order just a salad, either. You either had to order a meal/entree, and then dessert....or nothing at all!

When I go out, I'm going out to unwind, and I don't want anybody telling me how to graze, or what I can and can't eat.

The customer is always right, and it they're not, maybe it's time to get out of the hospitality business.

Peace, Maxine

HaloJonesFan said...

"Because there are other busybody restauranteurs who try to boss customers around."

Yes, but...that isn't what we're talking about, here.

I understand where you're coming from: The whole "The Customer Is Always Right" thing. But that is not a valid statement. The service provider is not a mindless robot or a slave. You and the provider have a mutual goal: For you to eat food. The provider is the one who defines the parameters under which this eating takes place. The customer does not have a say in that. Now, the customer can make requests, and reasonable requests usually get a reasonable response--but that is not a requirement. The provider is well within both rights and etiquette to refuse any requests.

HaloJonesFan said...

Something else I should point out: According to the article, it isn't as though this woman entered the restaurant by herself for the first time, filled up her plate, and was immediately chased out of the place. This was the result of multiple occasions of a whole family's plates left piled with food. This isn't just someone kvetching about a diner refusing to eat pizza crusts.

(And what is up with that, anyway? Is it some outgrowth of society's generalized germ phobia? "I can't eat that part, I touched it with my fingers!")

SippicanCottage said...

Freeman has an eye for the odd comment; it struck me that way too.

I don't know what it's like in the midwest, but there is a long and shameful tradition of behaving very badly in Chinese Restaurants here in New England. I think Jean Shephard's somewhat charming scene of mispronounced Xmas carol lyrics in a Christmas Story might refer to it in the midwest obliquely, too.

The best restaurant I've ever eaten in, anywhere on this earth, is a Vietnamese/Italian restaurant in Hartford, CT. The cooks are vietnamese, the menu is straight Italian. I presented the owner, Nga (pronounced Wah) with a paper chef hat we had signed by a bunch of third string celebrities once. He seemed very touched, and went out back and got pictures of his wedding. His wife was stunning, and wore a magnificent red dress (apparently the traditional color) His english was good but not sophisticated, but he said he wouldn't just show them to anyone, but he thought it unusual to be treated with any sort of man to man kindness by the average customer.

My default prejudged position is that the patron was an ***hole. All evidence must be presented to counter this to convince me otherwise.

Nga's got more money than any three commenters on this page now.

pst314 said...

Speaking of unreasonable customers, there is an excellent blog called Waiter Rant (

HaloJonesFan said...

Another thought: I am not necessarily saying that the Soup Nazi ought to be the default paradigm for restaurant operation. I'm just trying to say that you're on [I]someone else's property[/I] when you're in a restaurant--they've invited you [I]into their space[/I].

Wickedpinto said...

Yeah Bissage, you are kinda right. I made the first comment, cuz it was the first comment and I thought I would be a smart ass.

Everyone who was raised in an environment where an "all you can eat buffet" was something of an "out to dinner treat" knows BASIC all you can eat buffet ettiquette. If it is a new place, you take one of everything you MIGHT like. you take a bite of everything, if everything sucks, you throw it away, and give another try, only the second time, you take NOTHING that you took before, you have to hunt and peck for the right "all you can eat" combo.

Throwing away food at an all you can eat buffet is not a bad thing, but throwing away more than ONE of a certain kind of thing is, and every ONE of those things had better have at least one bite taken from it.

As a child food was too precious to waste so casually as this customer did, and it almost looks like a logistical sabotage of a competitor, since, everyone who hasn't had good chinese food always RACES too the egg rolls, and this broad threw away 4 rolls, of prolly the most popular food.

I see that, I was just trying to be a semi-humorous jerk.

Paco Wové said...

"What an odd comment."

My thoughts were more along the lines of, "Gee, what a nasty comment."

MrBuddwing said...

Maxine Weiss: "But I still don't like these Mom & Pop immigrants who come over here hanging shingles..... ....and ordering me around."

Got a problem with immigrants? (Put another way: Would you have felt better if the Mom and Pop were U.S.-born citizens? And how do you know for a fact Kent Cao isn't?)

altoids1306 said...

Late to the comment section ...

Maxine, if you think Asian cuisine is cheap, you should visit Taipei or Hong Kong. It's only cheap in America because most Americans refuse to eat anything but the most grotesque Americanized takeout. And tuna belly (o-toro) and masunosuke salmon are possibly the most expensive meats, pound for pound, in the world. Chinese food runs from dirt cheap to ridiculously expensive, just like every other cuisine in the world.

This restaurant guy is trying to run a business - he has a right to set rules and kick people off his private property as he chooses. If his rules are too draconian, his business will suffer. This is an inherently self-regulating situation. Any waste is added cost which is then passed to the customer. Personally, I wouldn't want to subsidize someone else's wastefulness - and I think most of his customers would feel the same way.

Maxine Weiss said...

I have fallen from Grace. I waste food. I am imperfect. I make unfair assumptions about people with the name "Kent Cao". I am flawed.

The readers of Althouse are held to a higher standard than that which I've expressed.

The disappointment and shock, that readers of Althouse could possible have such human failings.

Peace, Maxine

Joan said...

Maxine, we're all flawed. Most of us don't make a point of, well, bragging about it.