Never Do These 10 Things at an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

Conquering that long buffet isn’t as easy as it looks

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Never Do These 10 Things at an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

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So you’ve decided to go to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Good for you! It’s your right — nay, your duty — as an American to celebrate our overabundance of food by indulging in "all you can eat” of it. But if you’re really taking it seriously, if you consider every buffet to be a challenge that you’re more than willing to accept, if you want to tackle the buffet in the right way, then there are certain things that you should never do. 

Don’t Dive Right in Without Assessing the Situation

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Before commencing your buffet experience, make sure you canvass the offerings. Make a mental note of the must-haves, the maybes, and the definitely nots. Diving into anything without knowing the full extent of what you’re up against isn’t just a poor strategy for buffets, it’s a poor strategy for life. 

Don’t Grab a Small Plate By Mistake

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Many buffets offer two sizes of plates: smaller plates for bread and desserts, larger ones for main courses. Grabbing a small plate will put you at an immediate disadvantage, forcing you to awkwardly transfer the contents of your small plate onto your newly found large plate. Don’t make this embarrassing amateur mistake.  

Don’t Pick Up Food with Your Hands

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No matter what it is, even if you know you can easily pick it up with your fingers, use the tongs. Not only is it unsanitary to pick up anything from a buffet with your hands, it’s disrespectful to the establishment and your fellow buffet-goers. If you’re concerned about the cleanliness of the tong handles, use some Purell before you start eating. 

Don’t Sneeze

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For the love of God, if you’re at a buffet and you feel a sneeze coming on, put your plate down and move as far away from the buffet as humanly possible before unleashing it. Go outside if you can. Sneezing sends saliva flying at about 100 miles per hour in all directions, and being caught sneezing on a buffet line — even those where the food is protected by so-called "sneeze-guards" — will instantly turn you into a pariah. 

Don’t Grab Large Portions

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OK, so it’s time to load your plate up. Even though it might be tempting to grab a big spoonful or ask the carving guy for a huge slice, resist the urge. The goal here is to sample many, many different foods, not a whole lot of a couple things. On your first go-around, take a small amount of all the “must-haves” you spotted during your initial reconnaissance. Try a little bit of everything; if you want more, it’ll be there waiting for you. 

Don’t Load Up on Starches

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Bread, mashed potatoes, rice, and pastas are cheap filler, and they’re there so you eat them and get full faster. Don’t give in. The shrimp, crab legs, and carving station are far more worthy of your sacred stomach space than meaningless starch. 

Don’t Guzzle Beverages While Eating

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Again, stomach space. If you want to take a few sips of water or a cocktail, nobody’s stopping you. But three beers will fill you up on their own; keep your eye on the prize. 

Don’t Eat Too Fast

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Eat slowly. You’re there to enjoy yourself. The buffet isn’t going anywhere, and you’re under no obligation to finish everything that’s on your plate. Take the time to enjoy your meal, the pleasure of your company, and your surroundings. This is what life’s all about. 

Don’t Stop After Round One

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Stopping after the first round defeats the entire purpose of a buffet. On the second round, get the foods that you wanted to try but for lack of plate space, as well as a second helping of the most winning dishes from round one. Eat slowly, give yourself some time to digest, and if you’re still hungry, go back for round three. You’re in a safe place; nobody’s judging you. 

Don’t Leave a Bad Tip

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When you’re full, stop eating. The purpose of visiting a buffet isn’t to eat so much that you want to die, it’s to try a little bit of a lot of different foods. The employees of the buffet were your guides through this journey, so make sure to let them know they’re appreciated by leaving them a nice tip. At a buffet, tips are generally pooled between the servers; the runners, who keep the buffet fully stocked at all times; and the bussers, who clear an ungodly amount of plates, so even though it might feel like you’re not getting the same amount of service as you would at a regular restaurant, you should still tip at least 15 or 20 percent.

Now go take a nap. You’ve earned it.