There’s nothing quite like a buffet that can turn a bunch of nice, ordinary people into a hoard of elbowing, shoving, hungry barbarians. I mean, it makes sense, especially if it’s a fancy buffet: everyone wants the good piece of whatever is in front of them (you know that piece, the one you were eyeing from 8 dishes down the line), and the lighting on that roast beef is just divine and would you look at those potatoes…
It’s easy to lose yourself in a buffet, but it’s always important to maintain good buffet etiquette so you don’t look like a fool, especially if it’s a fancy spread at a friend’s house. And if you show just a little bit of composure and class, hey, who knows, everyone else might pick up on it, and what could have been a potentially embarrassing experience for everyone might just turn out to be one of the most pleasant evenings you’ve had in a while.
Good Buffet Etiquette: At a Restaurant
Whether it’s a fancy hotel buffet or someone’s extensive wedding buffet, etiquette should be maintained. Yes, there is good buffet etiquette, and it involves being patient, kind, and not appearing like a starving person. C’mon, your mama raised you better than this. Here’s a refresher:
- Before falling in line and piling random stuff on your plate, do a quick walk-around and survey your choices. This is a good way to plan out all the foods you want to try so that you don’t have to go back to your table with a plate that looks like it can feed a family of five. Don’t be wasteful, just get the things that are appealing and come back for the rest later.
- And when you do come back, please, PLEASE use a new plate! Cross-contamination can happen when you reuse your plates. While there are no buffet clean plate laws in place, it’s really just proper buffet manners to make sure that the food stays clean.
- We get it: you’re hungry, but please do NOT reach around or cut the line. It’s not only incredibly rude, but it’s also likely to cause accidents like spillage. Be patient and wait your turn.
- Speaking of the buffet line, keep it moving as much as possible. It can be tempting to just stand there and take your time choosing which dish you’re going to try next, but remember that there are other people in like. If you’re not sure of something, don’t worry and just come back for it later. The restaurant won’t run out of whatever food you’ve been eyeing, trust us.
- Please do NOT use your hands to touch the food on the buffet line. Yes, they are finger foods, but only use your hands when you’re already on your table. Always use the serving forks, tongs, spoons, or any other utensil that’s been provided. Oh, and, this should go without saying, but for heaven’s sake, please DON’T take a bite of any food item and return it to the serving dish if you don’t like it. Yes, some people do JUST that.
- Speaking of serving utensils, only use the utensil that was provided for the dish in front of you. Don’t use the serving fork they placed out for the salmon to get a piece of chicken, and vice versa. This is one of the ways that food can become cross-contaminated, so please avoid doing this.
These good buffet etiquette rules apply whether it’s an upscale joint, a neighborhood shop, or even a cafeteria lunch line. ALWAYS be on your best behavior, and try not to make your dining experience an unpleasant one for the people around you. Remember that you’re not the only person in the room, and yes, you do need to be considerate of those around you (even if they’re being inconsiderate of you!).
How you act in front of food is a reflection of who you are as a person, so you’ll need to decide: do you want others to see you as a refined gentleman/lady who was raised right by their parents, or do you want others to see you as a fairly disgusting and rude pig who walks around a buffet as if they own the place? You decide!
Good Buffet Etiquette: At Your Friend’s Fancy Party
But those etiquette rules are for restaurants; what if your friend invited you to their house for a buffet-style dinner? Can you throw away your manners then?
Of course not! In fact, you should probably be adding even more etiquette rules to follow. These are your friends, after all, and they deserve more than basic human decency; they deserve respect, especially if they had the good graces to invite you over in the first place! So, follow all of the rules we put in place in the section above but add these:
- Only put the food you intend on finishing on your plate. This isn’t a restaurant, so refills of food items on the buffet line are slim to none, but that doesn’t mean you should hoard the good stuff. Make sure everyone’s had the chance to get first servings before going for seconds.
- Unlike restaurants, your friend’s buffet is probably just going to be at their backyard or their kitchen, meaning it’s not going to have as much space as a restaurant. Try to give space between you and the person ahead of you, just so you’re not making them feel like you’re breathing down their neck.
- If you see someone struggling with their plate or drink, be a decent person and offer to help out! Chances are, this person is someone you know personally, so be a good friend and hold their glass while they get a serving of shrimp.
- If you’re bringing your kids, teach them good buffet etiquette, and don’t expect other people to take care of them while you have dinner. They’re your responsibility and yours alone.
Now that you’ve memorized these proper etiquette guidelines, you can finally conquer any buffet experience with poise and ease. Bon appetit!