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For a while last summer, it looked like the moderates might win the tug of war for the minds and stomachs of American diners.

The culinary arms race of ever-larger portions had started to taper off, "supersize" became a dirty word, and commodity prices, including those of many basic ingredients, were skyrocketing.

But then consumers began slamming the brakes on spending. Restaurants, by nature a discretionary splurge, started feeling the pinch. Third-quarter same-store sales -- sales at stores open at least a year -- were down 2.5% at full-service restaurants, according to market research firm Technomic.

To compete in a newly cutthroat landscape, restaurant-management companies are turning to that relic of retirement-community buffets and 1980s-era Las Vegas: the all-you-can-eat plan.

In recent months, several nationwide casual-dining brands have included all-you-can-eat pricing options on their menus, and there's evidence that local chains and mom-and-pop eateries are also running promos encouraging customers to belly up to the trough. Pancake purveyor IHOP offered all-you-can-eat buttermilk pancakes for 5 bucks, and seafood chain Red Lobster rolled out an all-you-can-eat shrimp deal.

The tactic is a bid to keep newly budget-minded customers from defecting to the drive-through. Such trading down is a perennial thorn in the side of casual sit-down restaurants during downturns, although they try to lure fine-dining customers to trade down themselves. The marketing director for Cici's, a Coppell, Texas, pizza chain that operates entirely on an all-you-can-eat model, says its customer feedback indicates that a growing number of diners are trading down from pricier eateries.
Hidey Ho piglets! How's this for on topic, i even have a reference to an eatery tele eats at. IHOP too. No bacon though, although i didn't read the whole article because it was making me hungry. I'm making cous cous tonite with chicken and other stuff, the things i have to do to make the golden goose happy. I know, i have very little.

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