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.


I have been to many buffets that have this sort of system. Rarely is it ever enforced. It would create a very awkward scene with the customers and aggrevate them. I imagine I may be made angry if I were forced to pay for leftovers and not return.


This pricing scheme creates the perverse incentive to stuff sushi in your pockets. In other words, it's good for cats but bad for humans.


I wonder if there is a charge for projectile vomiting from overconsumption.

Also, I doubt it discourages experimentation too much, as sushi rolls are generally eaten in a single mouthful.


In the Philippines we have a lot of restaurants that charge you 50% off the "regular" buffet price if you don't leave any leftovers. So say you have a $10 buffet, you only pay $5 if you wipe your plate clean. Of course the $5 price is the one they advertise in splashy bold letters ...


Makes sense to charge items that you've already got a chance to taste and then leave behind. I'd hate to get charged for crappy food that I just couldn't eat. A lot of incentive to carry plastic bags to smuggle leftovers :).


I have an angle on "wastage taxing" that I don't see addressed by others: it helps make a fair environment for those who have a reasonable need for greater resources. For example, we have a large family (seven children): for us to pay for, say, garbage removal at the same rate as others (2 bags per week included, $10 per extra bag) really punishes us unfairly. A family of 1 or two people may be generating a lot of unnecessary waste and paying no penalty, while we may be watching every pound of garbage, and still taking a hit.

I can imagine that someone might argue that, well, you are more people, so you have to pay more (i.e., pay per capita), but that's not what's happening here. For one thing, we are paying per bag (volume) generated, not per person.

Also, families with small children create more diapers (volume), more laundry, etc. than families with older children (who probably create more packaging waste!).

The point is, that taxing WASTAGE creates a fair use model: those who use what they need aren't penalized, those who are environmental hogs are.

It reminds me of visits to Califonia where feelings against SUVs can be strong. I am all for not polluting, but there is no fuel-efficient rental car capable of accommodating 9 people. The nasty looks directed at me (in a Chevy Suburban, for example) usually fade to embarrassment when people realize that, in fact, we are the ultimate efficient carpool (using all seats)!

I guess we could apply a wastage tax to unused automobile seats, and apply the proceeds to subsidizing mass transit and planet-friendly fuels.



@26 - I don't really see what you're after here. Sure, a larger household will create more waste than a smaller household; a 7-child household will also consume more public resources (schools, etc) than a 2-person household, and your household size doesn't affect the property taxes you pay to support those schools. If there's a certain "expected level" that is considered pre-paid by the community, then it's perfectly reasonable for a smaller household to remain below that "expected level" without putting forth effort.

Chances are the community that created the "2 bags included" approach realized that operating without that inclusion would have led to lots of overstuffed bags and excessive workers' comp claims by the garbage haulers.


This systems has been applied in Brazil for the last (at least) 7 to 9 years.
Another interesting system applied over there is an system where you can fill your plate with any sort of food available, so your plate is weighted and you pay according to the wheith of the food.



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.