A Gluttony Tax

We’ve blogged before about a pay-what-you-wish coffee shop and pay-what-you-wish downloadable music. Now Luciana Silvestri, a reader from Argentina, writes with news of something different: An all-you-can-eat restaurant with a prix fixe twist. As she explains:

A friend has just returned to Argentina from a six-month internship in Chicago and told me about a Japanese restaurant with quite an original pricing system. The restaurant is called Sushi Para II. The address is 2256 N. Clark, Chicago. Apparently, you can consume all the sushi you want for something like $17, but if you leave anything on your plate, you must also pay for leftovers. This creates an incentive to eat a lot but to order in the right measure. I wonder how many people actually accomplish to leave the place with no surcharge AND no tummy ache.

I admit that this is an interesting twist – paying for what you don’t eat. It would be interesting to try this at some of the big Vegas buffets. At those buffets, I also wonder about the difference in consumption between people who pay full price and people who’ve had their meal comped. I am guessing the paying customers eat more – but maybe, just maybe, they also leave more on their plates. I am also guessing that people who pay their garbage bill based on how much garbage they produce each week become less wasteful.

In this environmentally sensitive era, I can imagine this idea — a tax on waste, or wasteful behavior — catching on, and not just in restaurants.


again worst thing a person can do health wise is over eat ...so all this does is encourage you to abuse your body ....
vegas buffets everyone takes alot becuase it all looks good but honestly 75% of it tastes like crap , so you need to take a lot just to find the 25% that is edible..


There's a sushi restaurant in Newport Beach, CA that has this same rule.

It definitely prevents you from ordering more than you can eat, but more than anything it forces you to eat everything put in front of you through out the meal.

Which in a way stifles variety. You fear ordering food you've never tried, because if you don't like it you're either forced to eat it or pay the penalty.


An all-you-can-eat sushi and seafood restaurant chain called Todai has an interesting pricing strategy.

They charge lower prices for children, apparently because children tend to eat less. Moreover, they charge even lower prices for smaller children. Note that their prices for children are based on size (“smaller”) rather than age (“younger”). I presume that they do this because size (Todai uses height as the size measure) is observable, while age is not. My guess is that restaurants with, say, a 12-year-old-and-under pricing policy does not get many 13 year-olds dining there.


I'm having a severe case of deja vu on this. Didn't you blog about this recently, having to pay for what you don't eat?


But most NYC all you can eat sushi restaurants already have that leftover or wasted food clause. This prevents people from wasting the rice part of the sushi and it also fills you up faster.


There is a buffet here in MN with a sign that says "Take All You Want, Eat All You Take, Extra Charge for Wasting."

I asked about it once and the manager said its for kids who's eyes are bigger than their stomachs. They don't really charge, but they "warn" the kids about next time.

I wonder how often (if at all) its enforced there?


Agree this is fairly common. If I owned a sushi restaurant I would want to do this, too! I would imagine that if you took something you didn't know you'd like, and you left it on your plate with one bite missing (and that bite wasn't "all the fish, none of the rice" it would be an acceptable situation to the restaurant.


I have to point out to this Montréal restaurant, The Spirit Lounge, that takes "emptying your plate" to new extremes.

You can order their meal (they only have one, changingevery day) in small and large size. If you don't finish your plate you can't have desert. If you don't finish your desert (you don't have to order one) you can't come back. Ever. They also charge you more when you don't finish your meal and donate those few dollars to a good cause.

You also have to check you cell phone at the bar, because when it rings in the restaurant section, you and your party are asked to leave.


In the Netherlands we have a “tax on waste” system in place. Although its main purpose is raising revenue a “healthy environment” is a secondary aim. Taxing is per ton waste; landfill is taxed higher than incinerating.

The system is aimed at large producers. Research from the University of Amsterdam showed that money based system would not work for small consumers as they, well, couldn't care less... An “honour” based, or a system working at people's “gut feelings” (the don't-you-hurt-the-cute-furry-seal argument) would be more reasonable for a consumer situation.

Research showed that the tax, and the associated time and effort to get it right, was indeed an incentive for companies to see dumping -or incinerating- as a less favourable resort in comparison to for example recycling, a more efficient production chain.

Some info -> http://www.sharedspaces.nl/pagina.html?id=9440



There is an all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant called Maison De Japon in Toronto that does the same. You pay 15$ and order as much as you want. However you pay 1$ for each piece of sushi you ordered but didn't eat.

This certainly does not stop overeating but I guess it helps limiting the food wasting. Years ago my parents taught me that wasting food is a very bad thing and today I firmly believe that to be true. May be that's why it is easy for me to order only as much as I can eat (it is a lot though).


echo #1's comment, buffet food is mostly low quality, and hard not to be wasteful. if you want to enjoy food and dining experience, stay away from all-you-can-eat. i also think we should have an incremental consumption tax system.


I regularly eat at a sushi restaurant in Manhattan that has this policy. This has nothing to do with a tax on waste, or preventing waste. It's to prevent people from having all-you-can-eat sashimi (i.e., raw fish with no rice) as opposed to all-you-can-eat sushi. Without this policy, people would order the sushi, eat the fish, throw away the rice, and ask for more. It would be much more expensive for the restaurant to support that.


Here in Tompkins County NY, we must pay for garbage with per bag stickers. Conversely, recycling is free. This encourages folks to recyle as much as possible and severely limit waste. I personally only generate a full bag of garbage about once every two weeks and recycle everything possible.

I have a friend in suburban Chicago where the OPPOSITE is true. Garbage is free, but recycling has a weight charge of some type. There, folks shove EVERYTHING into garbage bags: cans, containers, glass, paper, etc. The system provides a major disincentive to recycle.


This reminds me of something from my days in Ithaca, NY: garbage collection, which I guess is the natural outcrop of buffets and other restaurant operations.

Each bag of garbage on the curb requires a sticker that costs $2-4 (depending on size of bag) and can be purchased and supermarkets and convenience stores in town. You can pack as much as you want into a bag, but it must have the sticker.

The interesting part is the incentive they give recyclers: You can leave as much recycled material on the curb (or to a recycling center) as you'd like, and the city recycles a fair amount of items, from cans/bottles to scrap paper.

So, there is a great incentive to not "waste" recycled material by leaving it in your regular trash, because it will cost money to throw it away.

Al Gore, are you listening?

(P.S. This also means that apartment complexes with dumpsters have lots of visitors who bring their garbage there.)



This isn't new -- one of my grandfather's restaurants started doing this in the 1960s.

Granted, they were concerned about rising food costs in the buffet restaurant and not obesity -- but they still did it.


This is a fairly common scheme among prix fixe sushi establishments. Aoi in Philadelphia followed the same scheme. In practice it mostly led to consumers learning how to smuggle out the leftovers in their trousers, for later surreptitious disposal in a municipal trashbin.


I have been to Sushi Para II three times now. Out of the 10-15 tables I've observed directly, only one table had a significant amount of unconsumed comestibles.

I was able to hear what they were charged for the unconsumed portion, and it was maybe 25% of the true price, so having leftovers is actually not a bad idea at at all.

There is also a tendency to use more rice than necessary (especially after your first plate) but if you sit by the sushi bar, the chef seems to take care of you better.

tim in tampa

There's a way to manage consumption at buffets and limit waste... college dining halls do it every day (at least mine did).

Using small plates and glasses ensures you can only carry so much food at one time; thus the amount of wasted food can only amount to so much. This is particularly helpful when it comes to beverages like milk, that are considerably more expensive than fountain beverages.

A similar strategy could be applied at buffets; my experiences in Las Vegas suggest they give you the largest plates possible.


@6 -

That was exactly the rule posted in the enlisted mess when I was an army draftee: Take all you want, but eat all you take. No extra charge, but they had other ways of making you pay. ;-)


As a big fan of Sushi Para II, I have to say, the idea of this tax to keep you from overeating is plagued by unintended consequences. While I will work hard to make sure not to order too much, when there is food left and I am full, I will continue to eat until everything is gone to avoid paying extra. So, while my order may be less than it might have otherwise been for an all-you-can-eat sushi place minus the leftover tax, I will in all likelihood eat more.