FAYETTEVILLE, NC—Moments after taking generous servings from the first several steam trays at all-you-can-eat restaurant Pepper’s Kitchen, local man Lucas Schultz was reportedly kicking himself Friday for squandering precious plate space at the very outset of the buffet line.

Schultz, who took stock of the wide array of appetizers, pastas, side dishes, and meats offered on the homestyle smorgasbord, is said to have identified the mistake almost immediately while adding an unnecessary second scoop of green bean casserole to his already packed plate, causing him to mentally chastise himself for his reckless lack of foresight.

“Man, I really screwed this one up,” said Schultz, looking up from the plate loaded with steamed corn, scalloped potatoes, and macaroni salad to see that he had left little room for the wealth of dining choices still to come in the 20-foot-long buffet. “There’s no way I need this much red beans and rice. And it’s taking up, like, a quarter of my space.”

“If I knew there were barbecue wings, I wouldn’t have even taken most of this stuff,” the 37-year-old added.

Schultz, sources confirmed, grew increasingly frustrated with his rash choices at the buffet and quietly berated himself while looking ahead in line and noticing other customers happily piling pot roast, honey-glazed baked ham, and fried shrimp onto their dishware.

Compounding the difficult situation, Schultz reportedly became acutely aware of pressure building behind him as patrons impatiently waited while he deliberated his next move. Schultz, who is said to have grown even more flustered while attempting to decide whether his plate could accommodate both beef stroganoff and baked haddock, reportedly apologized under his breath and mistakenly hurried past a tray of meatloaf he had previously been looking forward to trying.

Despite his fellow customers expressing their annoyance with sighs and scowling, Schultz reportedly continued to assess the remaining buffet items, frantically making mental calculations to determine what might possibly fit on the cramped plate and making the difficult decision of foregoing certain dishes he desired.

“I hate to admit it, but at this point I have to completely rule out the country fried steak,” said Schultz, who admitted to reporters he had no one but himself to blame for the blunder. “And there’s probably no way I can realistically even consider the carved turkey and gravy or chicken and dumplings.”

“Boy, I really should have thought this through when I first started grabbing food,” added Schultz, who appeared envious as he watched patrons on the opposite side of the buffet casually spoon up large servings of baked macaroni and cheese.

After quickly dismissing the ideas of putting back the untouched cornbread he had taken or eating some of his buffet choices off his plate while standing in line, Schultz is said to have contemplated stacking Italian meatballs on top of jambalaya before ultimately abandoning the notion and heading for the fried chicken drumsticks.

Schultz, however, reportedly softened his self-criticism momentarily when he eyed several unappealing seafood options and surmised that it was “no big deal” to miss out on sampling that cuisine.

Those close to the situation told reporters that Schultz experienced his sharpest sense of regret when he approached the buffet’s meat lasagna—a dish that he has reportedly described on several prior occasions as one of his “favorites”—and noted with frustration that there was no conceivable manner with which he could fit one of the pre-cut portions onto his plate.

“I wasted too much of my plate space early on, and now I’m paying for it,” said Schultz, shaking his head while looking down toward the plate he had loaded nearly to capacity. “I’d like to get one of those smaller end pieces of lasagna on there, but I don’t think I can even pull that off. What was I thinking?”

At press time, Schultz was at the end of the buffet, paralyzed with indecision as he attempted to choose between filling his remaining sliver of free plate space with a grilled bratwurst or pulled pork.