What Are the Rules of Dining at a Buffet?

Before you head out to your local buffet, make sure you have all-you-need-to-know before you eat all. Follow these 3 easy do’s and don’ts to have a great time chowing down.

Richie Frieman
4-minute read
Episode #178

I take pride in the fact that I can discuss topics of etiquette in situations where it’s presumed there is no room for manners. For example, the other week I went to a restaurant that had a buffet. Although I did not partake in this fine American tradition, I did notice how poor the manners were of those scrunched over the sneeze glass.

Proper Buffet Dining Etiquette

I’m not here to judge buffets in general. I’ve been to tons of weddings that had a buffet that I could only dream about. In fact, I prefer it! But then again, there are some buffets that look more like a salmonella bar, than a salad bar. Still, regardless of the class of said buffet, it all comes down to how you approach it.

So before you dash to grab the last crab leg, load up at the ketchup fountain, fill your sixth bowl of New England Clam Chowder, or pile on two pounds of bacon bits onto your all-you-can-eat salad, check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for proper buffet dining:

Tip #1 – You Don’t Have To Always Eat All

I am sure my good friends the Nutrition Diva and Get-Fit Guy are cringing at the mere thought of this article, but despite being a fan of all-you-can-eat buffets, I’m not a fan of truly eating ALL. Nothing makes me madder, or more nauseous, than watching a buffet turn into a smorgasbord of rudeness.  People fighting to grab that last mozzarella stick or slice of pizza, as if the restaurant is not going to replenish the supply.

Some people feel that when they dine at a buffet, they need to get their money’s worth, which you should. However, when it comes to buffets, I think after about 2 or 3 rounds, you probably got your $8.99 worth. When you go to a buffet, don’t pile up your plate so high that it looks like you are playing a game of Jenga with breadsticks. I recommend pacing yourself. For starters, piling up or carrying 5 plates at a time is sure to land you face first on the floor, wearing your 15 pounds of spaghetti and meatballs. Add that up with the 50 other people who had the same idea and now you have a 10-car pile-up version of a food disaster.

Remember: You can go back up as many times as you like, so don’t rush, don’t panic, and please maintain a reasonably sized plate.

Tip #2 – Keep It Clean

This may come as a shock to you, but the idea of an American buffet brings up a nightmarish picture of slobs hovering over the buffet bar with no care of hygiene or manners. Unbelievable, right?! How many times have you witnessed people reaching over the food with their sleeves dipping into the sauces or using their fingers instead of the salad tongs? Or even worse, the diners who like to give the offerings a little taste test before putting them on their plate. Top it off with the numerous times someone makes a gooey mess and doesn’t care to clean it up.