The all-you-can-eat buffet of America’s prolific fast food chains is a
thing of the past, though sometimes it feels more like a dream https://t.co/FSpyN2ql5s
— Eater (@Eater) September 29, 2020
Fast food began in the mid 20th century with the idea of walking in and picking up hamburgers and fries that were already made, but fresh because that was the only thing on the menu. In the 1980s and ’90s, casual restaurants offered all-you-can-eat buffets, which became so popular that eventually fast food chains jumped on the idea. But the concept was experimental, never universal, and didn’t last long. Now people can barely remember ever seeing a fast food buffet. Have you ever been to a McDonald’s outlet that had food out for patrons to pick up as much as they wanted? MM Carrigan found that stories of such buffets are few and far between, and corporate offices tend to not talk about them.
McDonald’s isn’t the only chain with a buffet whose existence is hazy. Yum Brands, the overlord of fast-food holy trinity Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Pizza Hut, is said to have had buffets at all three restaurants. I confirm nothing, however, when I reach out to the corporate authorities. On the KFC side, a spokesperson offers to look into “some historical information,” but doesn’t get back to me. My contact at Taco Bell tells me, “I’ll look into it. Certainly, nothing in existence today. I’ve never heard of it. Looks like there are a couple threads on Reddit.”
Reddit, of course, speculates a possible Mandela Effect — the phenomenon of a group of unrelated people remembering a different event than what actually occurred — in the existence of Taco Bell buffets. But I have a firmer lead in Payel Patel, a doctor who studied at Johns Hopkins, who tells me there was a Taco Bell Express in her dorm that was included in an all-you-can-eat meal plan option, though it only lasted one fleeting year. “You could order anything, like 15 nachos and 11 bean burritos,” she says, “and they would make it and give it to you, and you walked off without paying a cent.” A Johns Hopkins student newsletter published in 2001 corroborates the existence of the utopian all-you-can-eat Taco Bell, saying, “you can also gorge yourself on some good old Taco Bell tacos and burritos. Don’t forget, it’s all-you-can-eat. Just don’t eat too much; you don’t want to overload the John.”
While I had heard about fast food buffets in the past, I only encountered one in 2019 at a KFC in a tiny town at a sparse interstate exit. At the time, I quipped that the outlet would go bankrupt if anyone knew about it. Read about the rise and fall of the ephemeral (and possibly apocryphal) fast food buffet at Eater. -via Metafilter
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