Guest AuthorShital Kakkar Mehra

Buffet Etiquette

By | Shital Kakkar Mehra | Executive Presence Coach for CEOs I Business Communication Expert I Best-selling Author I Co-Founder Katalyst, NGO

Buffets are a cost-effective and quick way to serve meals to large numbers and hence, extremely popular at corporate events and in restaurants. Buffets may appear like free-for-all but the rules of etiquette still apply.

  • Queuing: Queues at a buffet can be annoying, as everyone wants to serve first but do politely wait your turn, instead of sneaking up to the counter. Wait for the food to be replenished, instead of scraping the dishes and eating while waiting/serving is not ideal. Buffets serve larger numbers and are not to be compared with the experience associated with fine-dining in a sit-down meal.  While standing in the queue, stop complaining about the food/ the long wait / the caterer retained, as it is impolite to the host. Instead use this time to network or chat with the others waiting with you. 
  • Serving: Use the serving utensil/ tongs to serve yourself and not your fingers. Resist the urge to pop that papad directly into your mouth, no matter how tempting it looks. One serving utensil per dish is provided and should be replaced on the holder or back in the dish. Avoid accidents and spillages by bringing your plate close to the serving dish. When deciding what to eat, don’t sniff the food, instead take a small amount and return if you like it. For hygiene/safety purposes, avoid leaning over the dishes while serving. Avoid sampling all dishes and over-loading your plate. Instead, exercise choice and serve limited portions of select dishes, such that the food is cleanly arranged on your plate and presents an appetizing picture.
  • Buffet Courtesies: Buffets are self-serve meals but buffet-counter staff needs to be thanked, if they serve you. The clearance staff has an extremely tough job and need to be thanked when taking away your dirty plate from your hand.


                          F A Q BUFFET ETIQUETTE

 Q: What is the best food to eat at the buffet?

A: In a stand-up buffet, rice and pasta are easier to eat than rotis/bread, as they don’t mess the fingers. Small boneless pieces of meat are easier to eat, as tearing the meat away from the bone with the plate in one hand and no knife can be tricky. Lettuce and other salad leaves, cherries & olives with pits, cherry tomatoes should be avoided as they can be rather unwieldy, especially if there is limited seating..

Q: Do I need to tip the wait staff at the buffet?

A: In a paid-for buffet at a restaurant, waiters serve the drinks, bring certain hot foods to table and take care of clearance every time you make another trip to the buffet. 5% of the total bill is a good tip, which will be shared between the wait staff. No requests for doggy-bags please!

Q: How much do I serve myself? Do I take a lot at once or do I make several trips to the counter?

A: Resist from heaping a mountain of food on your plate, instead make additional trips to the buffet.

Q: Do I use clean plates every time I visit the buffet?

A: It depends on the situation. In a paid-for buffet, like a restaurant, feel free to change your plate every time you visit the buffet counter, leaving your old plate at the table for the waiter to clear away. However, in a banquets party, hotels count the number of dinner plates picked up at the buffet counter when billing the host. So, if you pick up a new plate every time, the host ends up paying for it. 

Q: At times people display behavior that contaminates the food. What do you suggest?

A: Leave the line when coughing or sneezing, to prevent contaminating the food. Roll up our sleeves; mind your sari/ dupatta/ tie and your children. Escort children to the buffet table and serve them. As a rule, take what you touch on the buffet counter.

Republished with permission and originally published at Shital Kakkar Mehra’s LinkedIn


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