Maybe it's all Dr. Atkins' fault.

In the latest episode of weight wars, Chuck-A-Rama, the restaurant chain that has been a big part of the Utah caloric landscape for the past 36 years, explained at a press conference Thursday the difference between a buffet restaurant and an all-you-can-eat restaurant — and publicly apologized to customers Sui Amaama and Isabelle Leota for not making that distinction clear to them a week-and-a-half ago when Amaama was asked to leave the chain's Taylorsville location after he asked for, and was refused, a 12th slice of roast beef.

Reportedly, Amaama and his wife, Isabelle, are on an Atkins-like low-carbohydrate diet, which caused them to favor Chuck-A-Rama's beef over fattening breads, pastries, potatoes and French fries.

But either they did not make that distinction clear to Brad Preece, the Taylorsville Chuck-A-Rama manager who was slicing the beef the fated night in question, or Preece may have had a hard time reconciling the terms "diet" and "12th slice" in the same sentence.

Anyway, since Chuck-A-Rama is a "buffet" as opposed to an "all-you-can-eat," Preece asked the couple, when they balked at his censure, to leave. Isabelle and Sui — after eating half a cow — asked for their money back. Preece refused and the next thing anyone knew, the police were there, and not for dinner but to usher the unhappy customers off the premises.

What they had, was a failure to communicate.

This being America, Isabelle and Sui made their case in the media, including appearances on some national news programs, and cried the "d" word: discrimination.

They claimed Preece was discriminating against them for being Pacific Islander immigrants, not for asking one too many times, "Where's the beef?"

"We want to end the stereotypes that Pacific Islanders eat more than your average customer," Isabelle was quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune.

So they hired a lawyer to defend their right to eat as much beef as they want without discrimination.

For his part, Preece's contention is he was much more worried about his inventory of cow than racial stereotypes. It was a quarter to six at night, the heart of the dinner hour, when Sui asked for slice No. 12. The beef was dwindling fast.

"Race didn't have anything to do with that," said a Chuck-A-Rama spokesperson. "It totally had to do with the fact that you've got a guy carving beef thinking, I don't have eight hours to cook more beef. What he's doing is managing his inventory."

As Chuck-A-Rama's executives explained at Thursday's press conference, they felt they were within their rights to cut off anyone they thought was abusing the system by obliterating existing supplies.

Comment on this story

But upon reflection, they realized they could have gone about it in a more diplomatic, customer-is-always-right way, instead of saying, "I'm going to cut you off" and calling the cops.

"While we serve over 2.5 million customers each year, we are concerned when even one of our customers has an experience that is contrary to our customer satisfaction goal," the company's statement read.

So they apologized.

The result: Isabelle and Sui were offered gift certificates for future meals at Chuck-A-Rama, if they want them.

Which undoubtedly means another run on the roast beef. In Dr. Atkins' America, nothing's safe, except potatoes.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to and faxes to 801-237-2527.