How To Make Sure You Do Things Right At A Buffet

Whether it is at a buffet restaurant or a buffet party, buffet is just a good way to express your food choices. However, what constitutes your plate and your composure when you are confronted with an array of aesthetically appealing food matters. 

There are basic rules to follow in order not to flop before strangers, colleagues, business associates and friends including social media loyalists addicted to posting.

Let’s take a look at some tips to get you off the ground. 

1. WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE APPROACHING THE BUFFET

I always emphasise the need for personal hygiene. It is for the good of your health.  The act of hand washing shouldn’t dwindle with the eradication of Ebola and COVID-19. Washing your hands should be a religious exercise. 

Can you vouch for the hand health of people you had generous handshakes and high fives with?

One day, a friend and I walked into the restroom during a conference for youths aged 18 and above. After having a pee I approached the washing sink while she approached the door. 

Not sure I was seeing things clearly, I called her back politely. “Won’t you wash your hands?” She replied, “I didn’t do anything with my hand. I didn’t poop, babe. I only peed”! Wow! Never heard of such a well put alibi from an adult before. 

I don’t blame people who hesitate to shake hands. Germs and bacteria are real. They must be having freedom of expression on your palms and handbag, romancing your hair, face, doorknobs and handles even of restrooms and your cars. 

Health experts always endorse the use of a running tap when you want to wash. Or get an empty bowl and a jug of water. While you scrub both hands with soap, someone can help you pour the water. 

After washing your hands (a subject we shall treat in another episode), dry them with a paper, napkin or a hand towel.

2. KNOW THE CUTLERY 

Knowing which cutlery to use for what meal will easily tell your table mates where you belong. 

Usually, at standard restaurants or hotels where conferences are held, you find one soup spoon (bigger), one dessert/ice cream spoon (smaller), a bigger fork for eating, a mini fork for fruits or desert, and a knife for cutting. 

Remember, fork to the left hand. Knife to the right hand. Napkin on your thighs not around your neck like a child. 

3. PLATE RULES

From the start or end point of the buffet table, you’ll find a set of well displayed plates in varying dimensions – flat round and large for main course, portable bowl for pepper soup or fruits, mini flat plates for dessert. 

So it is ideal you know what plate to serve what meal with. 

4. EVERY FOOD TRAY HAS ITS TONG

Because our hands could deposit a pick up bacteria freely, ensure the serving spoon is well handled.

Neatly return the serving spoon or tong to its position – on a plate specially set in front of it or its holder.

Avoid placing the serving utensil in the food if there is a holder or a plate. However, if you must place it in the food where none of the two options above are available, then take care so the handle doesn’t fall into the food; lest it contaminates the entire cuisine.

5. DON’T JUMP QUEUES

This is not to shade any gender. The fact remains that ladies love to jump queues. 

Sometimes, they majestically walk up to their friends or colleagues in the queue and try to squeeze in front or immediately behind. 

This could be tasteless. So try to resist the urge. 

6. KEEP THE GIST FOR A LATER TIME

I’ve never agreed with the use of a nose mask since the outbreak of COVID-19 until now. I had to come to terms with its many hinge benefits. 

If not for the use of a nose mask, you would have been rebaptised. The same applies to food. Not sure why people dishing their meals on a buffet queue would engage in a chit-chat and catching up on old time buddies. 

Saliva flies too. Yes, it can comfortably evacuate your mouth and perch on your food. The thought of this is nauseating. 

7. NO NEED TO BE A WOLF

I remember the first time I attended a conference in a hotel in Ikeja. During the buffet, I served only vegetable salad, a few slices of plantain and protein. My all-time favourite. I backed it up with a bottle of water. 

I wasn’t jabbed or nicknamed a wolf. However, many young onlookers said it was a charade. I giggled along with their jokes and went to my seat. 

I took a little because I didn’t want my stomach to prove any point in retaliation. If you know what I mean.

Do not take an excessive quantity of a single type of food when there is a plethora of delicacies to explore. 

8. NEVER TAKE FOODS AWAY

One of the most embarrassing moments of my life was when a waitress at a prestigious hotel in Lagos intercepted us.

She politely asked my male colleague to either gulp the apple he had in his hand or give it up. It is against their rules to leave with a food item, which is a buffet rule.

If only he knew the rules, it would have saved us all that discreditable scene. 

In buffet etiquette, taking food to go with is a no no. Take only what your food chamber can accommodate at a time. 

9. VISIT THE BUFFET TWICE 

It’s not out of place to revisit the buffet table for a second serving. Some could go to get more sauce or a little more staple food to compliment their sauce.

Although it’s a lot better to under serve and return for more than to over serve and waste the meal, I wouldn’t nominate touring the buffet stand for the third time. People may perceive you as greedy.

10. WATCH YOUR LONG SLEEVE CLOTHES

Oh my! Guests with butterfly or flay sleeves are more often guilty of this. Because it dangles and flaps like the wings of a bird, it could make the spoon trip or even plates slip off the table. 

Even when you are on coats and jackets, you need to be mindful. Once I realise there is a buffet and I’m wearing a statement sleeve (or agbada), I become my own bridal train. Just pack or fold it.

11. FILLING YOUR PLATE TO OVERFLOW ITS BANKS

Just like I see people fill their cups of tea to overflow their banks, I’ve seen people with food do likewise.

That is why every time there is a buffet, I take a stroll to weigh my options. I begin from the staple food to the swallow and soup. 

I try to ensure I know the list of fruits and desserts on display; I’ve got my first choice. 

When you pile your plate with the first meal you see, you are likely to stumble on a fav cuisine or something you had always wanted to try. 

My last buffet experience at Intercontinental Hotel was one that left me perplexed. It was just a small gathering. When my table was authorised to go for our turn, we met empty food trays. Amazing, right?

I’d recommend buffet etiquette for everyone – children inclusive. This refines and edifies your eating mannerism. Your poise and carriage from your seat through to the trays and back is everything. 

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