Like them or ignore them, buffet is a hugely popular style of serving meals in restaurants of various scales and cuisines. Introduced to the world at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912, the concept of buffet today means a system of serving meals spread out in front of the guests and the guests serving themselves. Buffets are generally based on an all-you-can-eat concept. The guests can take as many servings of any food that has been served as part of the buffet. Hence, it is an unlimited food per person deal.
Buffet Does not, in Contrast to Popular Opinion, Give Bang for the Buck
On first look, a person many wonder about the prevalence of such a concept and its popularity among the restaurant owners. It is obviously popular among the guests of any restaurant because it seems to offer more bang for the buck. However, why should a restaurateur prefer it. The truth is strikingly opposite. Buffets are a profitable venture for business owners. The business aspects aside, the guests can eat only to a certain extent. When the guests do not eat as much, it is a waste of money. And when the guests do over eat, they do not feel good. Also, it is a waste of food and they do not even enjoy it. For the guests, it is always a poor deal.
We can compare this concept of overeating at a buffet to any other scenario in life. The situation is similar to getting unlimited access to entertainment or unlimited swiping on Tinder or unlimited data for browsing on a smart phone. There is a flip side to any such scenario. Take for instance, a person binge watching on Netflix all day. He will end up feeling disgruntled with the over exposure to too much TV viewing. It is similar to spending all day scrolling down your Facebook timeline. In the end there is the guilt emanating out of wastage of time and a subsequent adverse impact on health. It also has a negative effect on the mind which is boggled by too much screen time.
Recently, Amazon Prime Video has launched a child-centred service in USA that gives kids aged 3 to 8 years an unlimited access to child friendly Prime content. This innocuous looking facility at an extra $3/month might seem like a great offer just like the good old buffet meal. After all it is a curated content deemed safe for kids. But on a closer look, putting a kid down with unfettered video access for extended periods is not healthy.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have acknowledged that they have kept their kids away from technology (i.e. laptops, iphones etc.), especially while they were growing up, admitting how its bad for kids. How many other parents can understand this?
Cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito stresses on how parents are using this service to fill their shoes. They are also outsourcing the decision to choose what their kids are going to watch, to a stranger. The content might also be not fit for their mental and social development. Can they be sure that there won’t be any inherent bias in the content?
The Problem of Plenty in Economics
In economic terms, a similar analogy can be drawn with the resource curse or the problem of plenty. This curse refers to the paradox that countries with an abundance of natural resources tend to have less economic growth, lack of democracy and social development. Hence, abundance causing a negative impact instead of having a positive one.
Even someone with unlimited access to money tends to lose the perspective of what is important to life. He might end up knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. A young kid with unlimited access to mobile games will hurt his vision, impact his brain’s cognitive functions and he will miss out making memories of playing with friends.
In conclusion, there is a perennial question of moderation versus ubiquity. Usually pragmatism is important in any decision-making effort. Too much of anything affects our ability to think pragmatically. In short, there is always a negative side effect of providing unlimited access to something. The result of unfettered access is a waste of precious resources such as our time, our money and our mind’s capacity to achieve better things in life. There is also the aspect of getting addicted to elements that provide us unchecked comfort, making us forget the value of the real things in life. After all, “Less is more”.