Buffet Savoir-Faire

Once, at a large restaurant’s brunch buffet, I decided go on something of a reconnaissance mission before even grabbing a plate to serve myself. While perusing the delicious-looking foods, I noticed a woman examining a whole cooked turkey. From my perspective, she was looking at it just a little too closely and then out of nowhere, she took her index finger and poked the beautifully roasted bird. My jaw hit the floor. Did she think it wasn’t real? Now that she touched it, however, I wondered what else she had touched. Needless to say, I avoided the turkey that day.

Serving communal food offerings requires some common sense as well as some courtesy. Here’s a little buffet savoir-faire to help us all stay healthy and well mannered.


  1. Wash your hands, before you even head over to the buffet line. You and a whole lot of other people are going to be using the same serving utensils to put the food you’re going to eat onto your plate.
  2. Always use the serving utensils provided for each food in the buffet. Never, under any circumstance should you use your hands or fingers, or move a serving utensil from one food to another. If you do, you may inadvertently cross-contaminate foods and affect people with food sensitivities, allergies, and lifestyle choices.
  3. Go with the flow and please wait your turn. Cutting in front of others or going against the flow of traffic is rude and inconsiderate.
  4. Don’t be a glutton and overload your plate. It’s preferable to go back for each course than serving yourself a mountain of messy food.
  5. Revisit the buffet with a clean plate. If you’re heading back to for seconds (thirds…), leave your used plate on the table for the wait staff to pick up, along with any used cutlery.
  6. Control yourself. It’s easy to eat with your eyes, but it’s wasteful if your stomach isn’t prepared to follow through. Take only what you’re prepared to eat.
  7. Mind your manners. A buffet lends itself to more informal dining but that doesn’t mean we should forget about our manners at the table.


At the end of the day, it’s about showing our fellow diners respect and consideration. We need to be aware of those around us, and even be able to view things from another’s perspective. We are not alone in this world and if we are going to co-exist, we need to avoid things like, for example, sticking our fingers in other people’s food.

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