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Eating Behaviors and the Number of Buffet Trips: An Observational Study at All-You-Can-Eat Chinese Restaurants

Wansink, Brian and Mitsuru Shimizu (2013). Eating Behaviors and the Number of Buffet Trips: An Observational Study at All-You-Can-Eat Chinese Restaurants. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 44(4), 49–50. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.11.030.

 

This study examines whether there are certain behaviors that are exhibited by Chinese buffet patrons that are linked with higher BMI and more frequent trips to buffet line. In a previous study, “Eating behavior and obesity at Chinese buffets,” conducted by Dr. Brian Wansink and Dr. Collin R. Payne, six behaviors were found to be associated with higher BMI among diners at all-you-can-eat buffets...

 

  1. Serving one before reviewing all of the options.
  2. Using larger plates.
  3. Placing napkin on the table rather than on ones lap.
  4. Using a fork rather than chopsticks.
  5. Sitting at a table rather than a booth.
  6. Dining facing towards the buffet.

In this study, Dr. Brian Wansink and Dr. Mitsuru Shimizu returned to the buffet and examined these same behaviors to see which would best predict how many trips diners will make to the buffet line.

Trained observers conducted this study in 22 Chinese buffet restaurants across 6 states and recorded the demographics and behaviors of a total of 303 diners. The data included estimates of height, weight and body type as well as the incidence of the 6 aforementioned behaviors and the number of trips made to the buffet.

The results of this study affirmed the previous associations made between these behaviors and estimated BMI with the exception of sitting at a table and facing towards the buffet. As hypothesized, some of the 6 BMI-related behaviors were also found to be associated with more trips to the buffet. People who faced the buffet made more trips than those who faced away. This effect was diminished when controlling for BMI. In this case, diners with lower BMI still may be influenced to make more trips to the buffet and therefore consume more food. Diners should avoid this behavior in the future as it may lead to higher BMI.

Patron behaviors persistently associated with greater number of trips to the buffet, after controlling for BMI, included: serving themselves immediately rather than surveying options, and using larger plates. The type of seating, napkin placement, and choice of utensil were not associated with the number of trips made to the buffet.

This study confirms that there are behaviors that correlate with increased BMI that also are associated with more trips to the buffet. It shows that being deliberate in dining decisions and being aware of these behaviors may help diners avoid overeating. Also, it implies that buffet managers may help by providing smaller plates and placing them at a location that forces diners to see all of the buffet options before patrons begin serving themselves.