Friday, July 05, 2013

Children at Buffets

Buffets are generally affordable dinners and many families come to buffets. When I go to a buffet I expect to see children there with their families. But children need to be supervised in a buffet, and for some reason so many parents just seem to send the children - I have seen as young as five - up to the buffet by themselves. And this is not only dangerous to the child, it becomes a broader problem.

Some buffets have signs posted on the sneeze guard glass above the servers, "Children under 12 must be accompanied by adult."  This is a good step but too often those signs are ignored (by the parents) and the children are up there alone anyway. Some buffets make announcement over the loudspeaker system - "Parents please do not allow your children to go up to the buffet tables alone!" Another good attempt that also seems to be ignored by many parents. Do you see that most of the problem is not the child but the child's parents?

I have seen small children - not easily seen as they are so close to the ground almost stepped on by bustling adults just walking around the buffet tables. I have seen people carrying bowls of hot soup almost pour the bowl onto a child's head. These are not single incidents. I go to and have gone to  many buffets over the years and this happens regularly. 

And the problem goes beyond the danger. So many times I have seen a child up at the buffet by themselves, trying to put food into their dish - some barely able to see over the counter - some who could not see over the counter to the tray - and large quantities of food that they will never eat go onto their plates - and onto the counter - and onto the floor. A more serious problem is when they don't use the serving utensils and their hands and fingers are in the food tray. I watched a young boy recently grab a handful of french fries with his hands, put them on his plate, take one and bite into it, make a face that he did not like it and the half of the french fry he bit into and the rest on his plate were scooped up in his hand and put back into the serving tray. (Tell the manager or staff this happened and in some buffets they will tell you that tray will be removed immediately - and it never is.) How about a finger that goes from the kid's nose to the mash potato tray and right into the mashed potatoes. And the parents - even when they go up with the child pay no attention to what the child is doing and they say "Well, he is little. He does not know any better."  Yes, he is little and that is why you, parent, are supposed to be watching and even better putting the proper amount of the right foods on that child's plate and carrying the plate back to the table for the child.

Old Country Buffet has been making this even worse with their Thursday is Kid's Night promotion. Not only is the buffet overrun with children, but the children are running all around the dining room and the buffet serving area - with no supervision whatsoever. Thursday nights was once one of my favorite nights at OCB. We do not go to OCB on a Thursday night any longer.

My wife says that the parents don't know any better themselves - and on observation, she is correct - as when you watch the parents (adults) up at the buffet, their hands sometimes go to the tray without a serving utensil (that is just sitting right there in the tray to be used). Sometimes, their food goes while standing there from the tray to the mouth and then bitten, back into the tray.  My wife's opinion is that their parents did not teach them proper manners so they do not teach their children manners either. And you know, this is not just proper manners - it is general common sense and an awareness that other people are around you, and your actions may and can effect other people. This is why our "Rules of the Buffet" came about in the first place - all are common sense do's and don't's.

So, parents who are reading this - please do not permit your children to go up to the buffet serving tables without you. When you are there, keep the child with you and YOU take the food and put it on the child's plate and make sure it stays there until the child and you together are back at your table! Remember "family dinner" does not mean "children's free for all".


Anonymous said...

Heh. We've been to several buffets. My oldest daughter is 4. I don't think she's ever even been up to the steam tables.. we just fill a plate with stuff we know she'll eat. :)

OK, there was one exception.. I found a new buffet when I was with my daughter.. we went in and "previewed" it (but did not eat there - I did that on my own at a later date). I carried her the whole time and she did not touch anything. Children have no business being up there in the first place, in my opinion. --Art

Anonymous said...

I so agree with most of this article. It is the parents who are most at fault and need to be taught and to read this article, and to set a better example. But blaming OCB for running a promotion to build business is wrong. I don't defend everything they do as they have made a lot of bad choices about many things, but this is not one of them. Maybe putting your rules in a nice format to be printed and seen.

Writer said...

Art - It would be great if all parents were as good as you!

Writer said...

If OCB is going to run a promotion to encourage parents to bring children then they need to be extra observant of what the kids are doing while they are in the restaurant - as so many parents are not. There are liability issues here - big law suits when the kid gets a hot bowl of soup or boiling coffee poured over his head when he runs into someone carrying it - I have seen many near misses. Announcements need to be made to be with your child at all times and staff (which there are not enough of) need to be vigilant in watching the buffet trays and the little fingers going in. And it is not just OCB. Go to any buffet with a chocolate fountain and watch the little hands go in, out, and back in under that pouring chocolate.

Anonymous said...

The phlegming at the OCB in Long Island (Levittown) is usually due to unsupervsied children. Great article.