A Side Of Etiquette

heaping plate of pancakes

Last Sunday, we decided to go to a local restaurant for brunch.  Now, I will admit that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with buffets.  On the plus side, there are typically so many different foods to choose from that even the pickiest eater can find something that they like (that was a real blessing when my daughter was younger and had a bit of a “fussy palate”) .  However, let’s face it, buffets can also be a bit of a cesspool of poor etiquette and hygiene.

So, next time you find yourself at a buffet, be sure to teach your kids these ‘do’s and don’ts’ (and who knows, maybe their good behavior will rub off on others).

  1. Wash or sanitize your hands before you go up to the buffet (after all, you will be touching the serving utensils and potentially passing your germs on to others).
  2. Wash or sanitize your hands before you eat (you can assume that most people aren’t following rule #1).
  3. No butting in line.  Go to the end of the line and patiently wait your turn.
  4. Use the serving utensils provided.  Never touch the food and never put food back on the buffet table after it has touched your plate.
  5. Keep your face away from the food and the food shield (no one wants you breathing on their food).  If you need to cough or sneeze, turn fully away from the buffet table and use your sleeve to stop the spread of germs.
  6. Don’t eat while at the buffet table (don’t sample off the table or your plate).  Wait until you get back to the table before you eat anything.
  7. Eat with your utensils, not your hands (there are a few exceptions, such as ribs, chicken legs, bread, etc.).
  8. Leave your dirty plate at the table and take a clean plate each time you go up for more food.
  9. Walk slowly and be alert at all times to avoid spills, burns and collisions (remember to also keep an eye out for wait staff and other employees who are moving about that area).
  10. Buffets are a great place to try something new, but start out with a small helping to avoid wastefulness.  After all, you can always have more (that’s the beauty of a buffet)!
  11. Smile and say thank-you to servers when they fill your drink, clear plates, etc. (a little bit of common courtesy goes a long way).
  12. No phone calls or texting while eating…enjoy the company of those you’re with and everyone else can wait.
  13. Perhaps the hardest rule to follow at a buffet is to learn when to stop (build your ‘self-control’ muscle).  Pace yourself so that you leave room for the various courses and stop before you are ‘stuffed’.  Take a break between trips to the buffet table, to give your brain a chance to register what has been eaten.  There is a tendency for people to keep eating, just because they can, but that only leads to a stomachache and a lessened appreciation for what was eaten.

Let’s be honest, buffet etiquette is certainly never going to be on the list of the most critical life skills that we should teach our children, but teaching your children how to act in this situation, could spare you the embarrassment of being on the receiving end of the hostile “did your kids grow up in a barn?” looks from other patrons (maybe people will even smile approvingly at your obviously first-rate parenting skills… well, there’s always hope, isn’t there?!).


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