Monday, August 15, 2005

The "Rules" - A Baker's dozen to Start

Smorgasbord in Swedish translates to "open sandwich table". In Sweden the smorgasbord is an art in dining. The main table holds a variety of small dishes with foods of every variety. The diner comes to the table and places a few of the foods on a plate and returns to the dining table to enjoy them. Sounds familiar - pretty much the same as here right? Well, not quite. Diners do not mound everything that they see on their plate at once filling it high resulting in a mix of food that are now hard to distinguish one from the other. The Swedes take a bit - it is called the first plate. They take the appetizer items and enjoy them first. When done, they get up and get the second plate. They may go back three, four or more times - each time taking a bit of their favorites. The meal is relaxed. It is not a feeding frenzy - and dining at a buffet restaurant in the US should not be either.

When dining at a buffet there are some rules. No one posts all of these rules - some restaurants will post some of them - mostly without notice by their guests. If you stop and think about it all of the rules are common sense. None of the rules are intended to make your dining experience any less enjoyable - and in fact, all will make you a happier diner and make your fellow diners happier too. Here are a baker's dozen of the "rules". There will be more as we go along.

Rule #1

All you can eat is not a challenge. It is an offer!

This first and foremost rule has been stated before, but it cannot be repeated enough. This rule was first realized by wife who readily convinced me of it when I was moaning and groaning on our way out of one of my favorite buffet restaurants. This is not all you CAN eat - it really is all you CARE to eat. If you keep this rule in mind you will not ever regret eating more than you can comfortably hold.

Rule #2

There is no limit to the number of times that you can go up and get food.

Too often I have seen diners fill their plate with everything at once from salad to desert. I once saw a man try to figure out how to pour soup onto the top of an already filled plate of food. I have seen. You do not have to take it all at once. You are allowed to go back and get some more - as many times as you wish (some restaurants do set time limits - but I have yet to see a limit that was not two hours or longer. There is no need to put the salad and dressing on the plate, pile some chicken and roast beef on top of that, scoop on a heaping portion of mash potatoes, pour some gravy over that, and top it all off with a slice of chocolate cake. Think I am exaggerating - there is always more than one doing this at any buffet restaurant at any time. I will talk more about this in the next rule. Besides, getting up between plates gives you some exercise to digest and does will not disrupt the meal if it is done properly.

Rule #3

Take your food in courses - as you would be served if ordering from a menu.

If you order from a menu you would be served you rappetizers first, then your soup, then your salad, then your entree, and then your desert. Like the traditional Swedish Smorgasbord - First Plate, Second Plate, Third Plate. You will set the pace for your meal, relax, and enjoy it more.

Rule #4

Everyone must pay!

Everyone who sits down at the table with you must pay for a buffet meal. The only exception to this is if menu dining is also offered and then everyone at the table must order or select the buffet. It is not permissible to not order and then pick from someone else's buffet plate. It is also not permissible to order from the menu and then supplement with items taken from someone else's buffet plate. Some restaurants solve this problem by charging before the meal at the door. Some say if one orders the buffet at a table then all must order the buffet. I have too often seen someone argue with the server - and then the manager that they should not be charged for the wife, son, daughter - whoever, because they did "not" eat anything.

Rule #5

No food is permitted to be taken out of the restaurant.

This is usually posted in many buffet restaurants. Some will charge extra if they catch you removing food from the restaurant - some will have you charged with shoplifting.

Rule #6

Take only what you will eat - do not waste food.

Some restaurants post this rule. If you fill a plate and leave most of it over the restaurant may charge you. This rarely, if ever happens, but you should really avoid this. Of course, if you really cannot finish your plate then don't get yourself sick - but also do not then go up and get more.

Rule #7

For a more social meal, it is polite to wait for the others at the table to finish their plates and then go up together to get more.

If everyone gets up and down at different times you might as well be eating alone. Wait for the others - of course, in a very large group this is not always possible.

Rule #8

Take a clean plate every time that you go up to the buffet tables.

Never bring your dirty plate back up to get more. Take a clean plate each time and leave your dirty plate on the table to be picked up. Some restaurants have the server bring you more clean plates. This is not always good if you have an inattentive server.

Rule #9

If you put it on your plate, leave it there. Never return food to the serving tray.

Once it hits your plate, its yours. No one else wants what has touched your plate.

Rule #10

Never eat at the buffet tables!

Your table is there for you to eat at. Do not sample at the buffet tables or while walking around the room. All too often there is someone standing at the buffet eating from the steam table.

Rule #11

Children under 12 should not be going up to the buffet tables alone.

Children - well behaved or not - should be escorted to take their food. I like kids, but all too often they are a problem when they are up there by themselves - not returning the serving utensils to the correct tray, spilling overwhelmingly full plates, etc., etc. In addition, children are below eye level and with hot soup being carried and plates of hot food, they often are not noticed and walked into or spilled on.

Rule #12

The buffet table is not a cafeteria line.

Wait your turn for a particular item, but there is no need to walk around the buffet table in a line - no one moving ahead of the other. Take what you want and go to the next item that you want.

Rule #13

Tip the server.

Many people do not leave a tip in a buffet restaurant. Just because the server does not deliver the food to your table does not mean that you do not have to leave a tip. Usually the server in a buffet does more work than a server in a menu restaurant. He/she needs to be more attentive, continually clean away the dirty plates, and bring more beverages (if beverages are not self-serve). How much you care to tip is up to you. You should leave at least a dollar per person or a percentage (10 or 15 percent) if the meal is over $12.00 each. If it is a restaurant that you frequent often you should leave more. Some buffet restaurants include the tip in the price, usually those who charge as you are going in. This is made clear at the cashier. In these restaurants the tip is taken care of and there is no need to leave more. If the tip is not included and you have an inattentive server - and a pile of dirty plates left on your table through your meal - tip less and let the management know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hmmm nice thanks