If you bill it, they will come. And so they did Saturday, in droves.
The Infinite Buffet was successful beyond the organizers' dreams, or nightmares. Three thousand people were expected; 6,500 men, women and children arrived, making it the largest student-run event in MIT history. And almost all were fed a full meal.
Sponsored by the Graduate Student Council and the Class of 2003 Council, this was a follow-up to the first buffet in 1997, which fed somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500.
Learning from the previous event, the organizers of this year's feast were prepared. They controlled traffic, funneling guests through the halls and along the serving tables in Lobbies 7, 8 and 13 and then Lobby 10 where desserts and beverages were served, and finally into a heated tent on Killian Court where tables and entertainment awaited them.
"We are extremely happy with the success of the event, which exceeded our wildest expectations," said Soulaymane Kachani, a graduate student in operations research, who was one of four organizers of the buffet. "Though the attendance more than doubled the projections, Aramark went way beyond its contractual obligation and provided high-quality food for 6,000 people."
Kachani said even the final 500 guests, most of whom arrived near the 3 p.m. closing, were fed soup, desserts and beverages. "Everybody got to eat except the Lobby leaders [volunteer workers] and the four organizers. We were there from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday. We slept afterwards and ate later," he said.
The four primary organizers--Kachani; Satwik Seshasai, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science; Kevin Nazemi, a junior in political science; and Dilan Seneviratne, a graduate student in materials science and engineering--planned the event from top to bottom.
But Kachani barely takes any credit for himself and his fellow organizers, instead shifting focus to the 225 volunteers, 25 of whom were Institute staff members and the rest students. "I've organized graduate student orientations. I've organized a career fair. These were by far the most wonderful volunteers we have ever worked with," he said, also crediting Aramark, the Campus Activites Complex, Campus Police, the MIT performing groups and the funders.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 31, 2001.