14 Buffet Etiquette Do’s and Dont’s

Buffet Etiquette tips
When dining at a buffet, wash your hands first, use serving utensils properly, and take small portions. Don't overcrowd the buffet line, double dip, or eat in the line. Always watch your kids and teach them not to stake their plates, exchange, or keep the food back to ensure a pleasant experience for all.

1. Wash Hands First

Washing your hands prevents the spread of germs and bacteria that can be present on your hands. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to reduce the likelihood of introducing harmful bacteria and viruses to the food.

2. Roll Long Sleeves

Rolling up your long sleeves while serving or eating at a buffet is a good idea for several reasons:

  • Hygiene: Prevents the loose fabric from touching and potentially contaminating the food.
  • Comfort: Helps you stay cool and comfortable.
  • Professionalism: Gives a professional look, especially in a casual buffet setting.

3. Don’t Cut The Line

It is rude to cut the line at a buffet. Buffets are designed to allow everyone to enjoy a variety of food options at their own pace. Cutting in line can disrupt the meal’s flow and make it difficult for others to access their desired dishes.

If the line is moving slowly or someone takes a long time to serve themselves, it’s best to exercise patience and wait for your turn. If you’re in a rush, you can politely ask if you can go ahead.

4. Don’t Stake Your Plate With Food

When attending buffet events, it’s easy to get carried away with all the food choices available and take more than you can eat. Pilling up your plate with all types of food can make you look greedy. You can always return for more if you’re still hungry and the food is available.

As per The Atlantic, around 5-25% of food is wasted in buffet arrangements. Don’t overfil your plate only to waste it later. Be mindful of your appetite and other attendees; take only what you can eat.

5. Use Dedicated Utensils

use serving utensil to take food
Use serving utensil to take food

While it may be tempting to use the same utensil for different dishes to save time and effort, it’s better to use dedicated utensils for serving each food item. Using dedicated utensils helps ensure the food is safe, hygienic, and presented in the best possible way. Mixing serving utensils can also result in cross-contamination.

6. Don’t Carry Plate And Drinks Together

Leave your drinks at your table when queueing up for the buffet. You need both hands when serving. Carrying a plate and drinks may cause you to spill them or drop your plate of food. The spills may cause tripping and falling accidents. All these create inconveniences for the people behind you who are waiting in line.

7. Don’t Use Your Hands To Take Food

Using the appropriate serving utensils provided to serve yourself is good buffet etiquette, rather than using your hands. Using your hands to serve is unsanitary and may lead to food contamination. It’s also unappetizing to other guests sharing the buffet with you.

8. Watch Your Kids

Hot dishes, sharp utensils, and heavy serving trays can easily cause accidents if handled improperly. Watch your kids to ensure they use proper utensils, avoid touching food with their hands, and practice good hygiene.

If the kids are too young to stand in line, serve them first and let them sit down before you serve yourself. Your kids will learn how to interact with others, share food, and behave in future buffet dining settings.

9. Don’t Eat In The Line

Eating while queuing at a buffet is unsanitary and impolite because you slow down the queue. Eating in line might cause your saliva to drip onto the food, which can contaminate it. If you should taste the food first, take a small amount on your plate to taste it away from the line.

10. Don’t Doggie Bag

Taking a “doggy bag” or to-go container with you is not a proper etiquette when attending a buffet. Buffets are all-you-can-eat dining experiences, and guests should take what they can eat at the time and not waste any food.

If you can’t finish all the food on your plate, it’s best to leave it on the table and not take it with you.

11. Tip The Servers

Leaving a tip for the servers at a buffet restaurant is acceptable. The amount you should tip may vary depending on the service quality, your group size, and your overall satisfaction with the dining experience.

12. Don’t Return Food

Before serving at a buffet, know what you want to eat. Returning food to the serving dishes because you have changed your mind is unethical. It is also unhygienic, and it slows the queue too.

13. Use Fresh Plates For Next Round

use fresh plates in buffet
Use fresh plates in buffet

Always use a clean plate if you are going for a second. A plate, once used, is already contaminated with dirt and germs. Leave your used plate or glass on the table and get a new plate.

14. Step Away To Sneeze

Excuse yourself politely and move out of the queue if you feel like sneezing. Use your handkerchief to mask your mouth to avoid spreading germs. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after sneezing.

What Food Goes First In A Buffett?

Buffet settings follow a specific order. The first in line at the buffet table are plates, cutlery, napkins, and bread. Starter and salads come next. If the buffet includes soups, place soup utensils and soups after the salads.

Also read: 11 Soup Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts

Next is the main course. Deserts are last in line. If the dessert is cold, ensure it’s far from hot dishes to prevent it from becoming warm. It’s appropriate to include labels showing the food options available.

You can also offer varying dishes at different tables. For example, the salads at one table and the main dishes at another.


Tabitha is a curious and enthusiastic writer who believes in the power of words and the importance of good manners. Etiquette is her passion, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.

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