I've got a scenario where a restaurant and its customers & staff are transported to another world. The question is: About how much food would they have on hand?

The restaurant in question has about 50 seats (including patio) and would be moderately busy over the course of the week. The food is sorta the usual diner fare: Sandwiches, burgers, some steaks & fish & chicken, breakfast and pies.

The lack of electricity and other utilities would give them a deadline for consumption of the refrigerated or frozen food but mostly I'm wondering how long they'd be able to go without gathering new food so I can better build the timeline for the now stranded "castaways".

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I've voted to close this question because I don't see the link to worldbuilding - while I can see the applications of this in a story, that doesn't make it on-topic. If you can clarify, please edit to show us. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Apr 5, 2015 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ Hmm, I'm not convinced it is off topic. It is building the world that the transported people are in. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Apr 5, 2015 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB true... Borderline I think. My CV is because this essentially boils down to "how much food does an average restaurant keep around", which is not worldbuilding. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Apr 5, 2015 at 23:58
  • $\begingroup$ Some of this would depend on ambient temperature of the new environment. If it's reasonably cool and the freezer and fridge are well insulated, even frozen food might last a while before spoilage sets in... $\endgroup$ Apr 6, 2015 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ I would suspect that after about a week they would be down to making biscuits out of flour and water. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Apr 6, 2015 at 13:59

2 Answers 2


Having worked in a couple of diners, and other assorted restaurants, most take a large delivery about once a week. That's not saying that they would be completely depleted in a week, but rather that the most commonly sold items usually last about that long.

But we're specifically talking about a diner here so lets take a look at that.

In an average diner, sadly but not surprisingly, most items aren't what you would call "fresh". Apart from a few staple items like:

  • Eggs
  • milk
  • butter
  • cheese
  • bread
  • tomatoes
  • lettuce
  • onion (sometimes pre-washed and cut, sometimes frozen, on occasion fresh and whole)
  • and some sort of pre-washed, cut salad mix

Nearly everything else will be frozen, dry, or canned.

All of your meats and most of your veggies, will probably be IQF (individually quick frozen)

Don't expect to find much in the way of unmixed dry ingredients like flour. Most pancakes, waffles and that sort of thing come to the diner as a "just add water" mix.

Which brings us to the primary problem... A diner simply wont function without running water for more than a few hours.

Most restaurants don't carry large stocks of bottled water, and even fewer carry other bottled beverages. Sure you may have a few gallons of fruit juice, but soda will probably come from a bag-in-box dispenser (wont work without running water) the coffee machine is likely plumbed in and the tea most likely is as well.

So... If you had a staff of 6 and say 12 customers at the time of transport, all of the water you have on hand will probably be depleted within a day, maybe two days if you rationed carefully and didn't use it for making waffles.

Sorry to paint such a bleak picture, but on the up shot you would probably have enough food, even without refrigeration to last a few weeks.

Keep in mind that commercial freezers are really well insulated and inside a typical diner freezer you would find a near solid wall (a few feet thick) of frozen food.

  • $\begingroup$ I think the amount of fresh food depends on the type of restaurant. A diner has a large menu and needs to keep different things on hand. A Chinese restaurant that stir-frys with vegetables needs them fresh, but shrimp is bought individually frozen and rice in 50 pound bags. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Jan 30, 2016 at 3:23

There is insufficient context for a generic answer, I think, but I have some partial replies.

  • A quality restaurant would use many fresh ingredients. To avoid waste, they wouldn't have much more than a day's needs at hand.
  • Some long-lasting staples might be purchased in wholesale lots, like flour, rice, bottled drinks. OTOH, they need deliveries each day anyway, so why stockpile much more than they need? A thousand dollars worth of soft drinks in the basement is just unproductive capital (and it takes plenty of room).
  • Ten thousand bottles of wine are another matter, for a quality place.
  • At the lower end of the scale, there might be lots and lots of frozen burger patties. But again the buns and the salad would be relatively fresh.

Summarized, supplies in that restaurant will be rather low. Many ordinary homes will have more per person.


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