For most people the words “all you can eat buffet” fill them with joy. Not me. There is nothing that I struggle to guess more than the etiquette at a buffet.
I want to address a few concerns with a buffet. Firstly, the plates – coming soon will be a whole post on plates – but the plates at a buffet are a problem. They’re small. I can understand the science behind this from an owner perspective, but they aren’t user-friendly. Do you cram the plate full, or just take two with you to save on journey time?
Speed. How quickly after finishing your first plate are you supposed to get back in the buffet queue, obviously the gap between starter and main is probably the time it takes the whole table to finish, but what about seconds of mains or even thirds, especially if others do not want to grab more.
Timing. When is the best time to get to a buffet? I would assume getting there when it opens all the food is fresh, but what about an hour and a half in? How fresh are those dishes then? Or worse still, time it wrong and while you are up loading up the dish you want runs out. Do you get back up when it arrives – or when you have finished the current plate?
Circuit. Some buffets are laid out in such a way as you can’t go the wrong way round. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and you can face oncoming traffic while trying to fill your plate up. Or you are in a situation where the same dishes are located in more than one place, how do you navigate the extra portion? I also think it is good to scout all offerings available early so not to miss the good stuff, but then I’m circling the buffet with no intention to pick up food.
The Breakfast Buffet. This could have a post on its own, but I’ll keep it brief. Toast in itself is a dilemma. Some places bring toast to your table, others want you to cook your own. Often the toast comes after you’ve had your fill so you don’t really want it at the end of breakfast. The hot food buffet and the cold food buffet at breakfast both warrant attention, which should come first? Do I take a selection of pastries and fruit to my table for us all to share after we’ve made the most of the hot selection? Do I even mention the juice? Up and down every five seconds to get myself another shot of fruit juice.
Quantity. How much should I take? A few weeks back I went to an event with a buffet – I got in early. Took what I considered a fair share. The host came on the microphone to announce we were only allocated one per plate. This would almost be okay if there were more than 2 vegetarian options for the veggies in the room. Secondly, I’d question if there is such strict rationing of the portion, why make it a buffet? As already mentioned, in a previous post, I’m a fussy eater. Buffets are good in this sense, I can try something new without it being forced to eat a plateful of it. This can cause more problems. If I don’t like it, can I really go and fill another plate, when I haven’t finished the one I already have.
Value. I’m a fan of the ever so filling carbs. This is not the right food group to be eating if you want value for money for your meal. Seafood is typically the more expensive ingredient available. Allergic to shellfish, not overly keen on fish. I’m probably going to be filling my plate with the carbs and chicken. Got to eat a lot of that to truly feel like I’ve eaten my money’s worth.
Presentation. One of the things I enjoy most about eating out is the food on my plate has been placed there with love. The same cannot be said of a buffet. I’ve slopped on as much as I can and the overall aesthetic is just not what it could have been.
I’m sure some of you will have defences of a buffet, but don’t be offended if I politely suggest we go to a restaurant that plates up the food for me.