Last week we asked readers how often they eat at buffet-style restaurants, where diners serve themselves unlimited portions of food from heated serving tables. The question was inspired by a post by ScienceBlogs editor Virginia Hughes, which was inspired by an innocuous comment I made as we were heading to our hotel restaurant table: “People in North Carolina are really into buffets.” So, is North Carolina the champion state for buffets?
In fact, North Carolina ranked 20th on our list. The number one state for buffets was Kansas, averaging 6 visits per month. Second on the list was New Mexico, followed by Indiana, Connecticut, and Nevada. Unfortunately, there’s one problem with this list: the results aren’t even close to statistically significant. Despite over 400 total responses, we only received two responses from Kansas. There were three responses from New Mexico, six from Indiana, and five from Connecticut — that’s not nearly enough to base any sort of generalization on, especially since there’s only one data point per respondent. It also means that my initial claim, that North Carolinians like buffets more than average, is not supported or falsified.
Another problem with the data is the fact that so few of our readers report eating at buffet-style restaurants with any sort of regularity. Here’s how the data breaks down:
Eighty-five percent of respondents ate at buffet restaurants less than once a month, and only 10 of our 409 respondents reported eating at buffet-style restaurants more than 3 times per month. Since one of those ten happened to be from Kansas, Kansas zoomed to the top of our list.
But if those results aren’t significant, maybe we can find a significant effect if we lump states together into regions, like this:
Now it’s looking like the mountain and midwest states are the hot spots for buffet dining. But yet again, these results aren’t significant — they’re skewed by the very small number of respondents who visit buffet restaurants frequently.
One difference that did rise to the level of statistical significance: Cognitive Daily readers from the U.S. visit buffet restaurants significantly more often than our readers from the rest of the world.