by Danica Waters
There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a situation where you have no idea what you’re supposed to do:
Here’s a few standard rules for navigating a buffet table:
Check It Out Before You Approach. Usually taking a few minutes to assess the layout of the buffet table and the queue will provide you with enough information for you to proceed with confidence.
Don’t Feel Weird About Asking For Help.
If you still feel uncomfortable, there is nothing wrong with asking the waitstaff for a little direction. Trust me: if you’re confused, there’s several more folks around you who are, as well. Sometimes asking for assistance ends up helping others around you.
The Utensil Dilemma
Keep an eye out for utensils, and be sure to get them your first time through the line. Hopefully, the utensils will have been located at the end of the buffet table so you don’t have to juggle them along with your plate. Sometimes the utensils will be laid out on the dining tables, so you won’t have to worry about carrying them. Just be aware.
I don’t think I have to tell anyone this, but then again… Allright. I’ll bring out my “mom” voice. When you must stand and wait your turn in line, WAIT YOUR TURN. Don’t butt in front of others, don’t huff and puff and whine about how hungry you are, even if the line is moving slower than molasses in January. Maintain your composure. Respect others’ personal space – don’t bump into folks around you or look over their shoulder or think you can hurry them up if you move in a little closer and breathe hard down their neck. It won’t make them speed up. It will make them think you’re an ill-mannered so-and-so. Don’t make fun of the people around you, or of the choices they make at the buffet table. That’s just so mean. And even if you happen to absolutely detest something being served up, the world does not need to know about it - DO NOT EVER COMPLAIN ABOUT THE FOOD. (Oh, Good Lord, the Mom Voice has taken over!!!! I can’t help myself…… yiiiiikes!!!!!) “Keep your hands to yourself. Stand up straight. And for heaven’s sake, don’t stare”. There. I’m done now.
Filling Your Plate
The great thing about buffets is that there’s usually a ton of different things to try. You might have your pick of several different types of cuisines, along with multiple salad and dessert offerings. How you approach this is important, as there’s nothing worse than sitting next to someone who’s loaded up their plate with enchiladas which are sandwiched next to a pile of mashed potatoes with gravy that happens to be pooling underneath the strawberries-’n-cream jello mold that’s wobbling next to some sort of cheesy spinach dish that’s next to those darn enchiladas. Heartburn, anyone? Here’s what you need to know:
- It’s best to take little portions at a time. Pyramids are best left in Egypt, where they belong.
- Buffets are designed for multiple trips. Concentrate your selections on one type of cuisine at a time. (i.e. – don’t combine your tabbouleh with the Swedish Meatballs, please)
- When you re-approach the buffet, be sure to leave your dirty plate(s) and utensils for the waitstaff. Don’t bring them with you. Get a new, fresh plate each time you go up.
- If you decide to re-approach the buffet table, leave your napkin in the seat of your chair rather than on the table.
- If you’re dining at a restaurant or hotel, it is perfectly acceptable to ask the waitstaff to replenish any depleted offerings. However, if you’re at someone’s home, it’s not a good idea to do this, as it might create an embarrassing situation for the host/ess.
- As you serve yourself, remember that the serving utensils should never be placed back in the serving dish. Rather, they should be placed on a tray to the side or in front of the dish. Sometimes, though, (especially in private gatherings) the host/ess will not have made this accommodation, in which case you should “go with the flow”. And NEVER use your fingers to serve yourself.
- Don’t eat in line. And no taste-testing…
- If you happen to be overtaken by the urge to sneeze or cough while in a buffet line, please turn away from the food and cover your nose/mouth!!!!!
- When you return to your table, it’s not necessary to wait for everyone else to return to the table before you start eating. However, it’s considered polite to wait for at least a few people to return prior to beginning.
- Last but not least, it is considered extremely inappropriate to ask for a doggie-bag or other type of take-away container when eating at a buffet.
I’m sure there’s more, but these tips are the most universally-accepted as “things you need to know” about eating buffet-style. And I’ve worn out my “Mom Voice”. Good Luck!