SAO PAULO—I have only been in Brazil for a few days, but I am ready to make one ignorant American overgeneralization: This country loves its buffets. I have dined buffet-style for almost all of my meals here, and the times that I didn't, the restaurant had a buffet option available.
Walking around a Sao Paulo neighborhood the other day, a fellow reporter here was taken aback by one particular restaurant buffet offering. The sign in front noted that the price for a lunch buffet was five reais (about $2.25) higher for men than for women. When a waitress was asked about the discrepancy, she responded, plainly, that it's because men eat more than women.
In a way, she's right: Women have, on average, smaller bodies than men, and thus require fewer calories in a given day. To maintain weight, a 26-year-old, moderately active man should eat about 2,600 calories per day, while a woman of the same age and activity level should eat 2,000.
And in the U.S., at least, that's roughly how people actually function: According to a 2010 USDA survey, men in their 30s consumed an average of 2,736 calories per day, while women in their 30s ate 1,831.
In fact, this restaurant seems to have found a solution to the essential quandary of businesses like buffets, health insurance, and other markets in which it's unclear how much the consumer will consume until they actually consume it. The restaurant may not know which customers are hungriest, but they know which ones have the bigger, calorie-sucking bodies. And they charge them more.