By Janet Adetu

How do you navigate the buffet table?


For many social events and dinners the buffet setting is the favoured style of dining. It provides a wider variety of food catering for all types of diets, menu choices and health options, it is easier to serve and choose from, and above all it works out so much cheaper. It is most common during breakfast and lunch hours, and now today for gala dinners. The buffet table is laid out in such a way to whet your appetite as well as to give you the opportunity to try out new things as they appeal to you on sight. You have that choice to taste everything, meaning you can come up to the table as many times as you desire.

I marvel at how many times I have been to a breakfast and lunch meeting and somehow I see well suited executives over indulge regardless of other diners. I realized that somehow in spite of the well – organized buffet set up stations some people may find it a challenge moving around a buffet setting. Interestingly you find some people heading for the desert first rather than the starter.

Let’s start with the courses that make up a full meal;

To start a meal there will always be some form of appetizer which serves as a starter followed by the entrée otherwise known as the main meal and finally that is followed by a light dessert to complete the meal.

For breakfast specifically, your appetizer or starter would be your cereal or a light salad from the salad section. At this point you may add one or two carbohydrates from the bread basket topped with juice or hot beverage. This in itself is a complete breakfast, if you do not intend adding a hot plate. Your next visit to the buffet table would be to select hot breakfast as your main meal. Be careful not to over pile your plate remembering that it is breakfast, you will be returning to the office so avoid undue fatigue. A lighter way to top up your breakfast would be add a selection of fruits.

I have also witnessed numerous times how the buffet also sets the table for all you can eat “now” and not “later”. There is a notion that, it is better to get to the buffet table early to make your first choices. There is additionally the notion that you should pile up your plate as much as you can because if not it will finish in no time. Meaning if you do not help yourself to a desired dish now you may not get another opportunity to eat it. What then happens is that on the same plate you will find starter salad and dessert all on the same plate. As much as it is a funny sight to see, it is totally devoid of protocol and etiquette at the dinner table. Such acts makes a well-dressed man or woman appear to be sabotaging their image with what looks untidy, underclass and completely lacking of panache. When you think about it after piling up the plate, the dish becomes overwhelming, hardly do they finish what is on the plate. What a waste!


  1. Start from the beginning of the line where the plates are laid out for soups or a cold selection. Take the soup bowl and spoon provided for the soup
  2. Take bread on a bread plate
  3. Return for salad using a fresh small salad plate. if you desire use your soup & salad as your starter.
  4. Your main entree is served on a larger dinner plate. Watch the size of plate and do not just take anyone available. Serve your selected hot food including protein meat, chicken or fish with some staple rice, potato or traditional vegetable stew, proteins and carbohydrates.
  5. Return for more entrée if you decided to go slow and you are tasting. As many times as possible is allowed
  6. Your dessert can be a bowl of fruit, cake and ice cream. At times desserts are served in specific glasses; feel free to take a glass away.
  7. For breakfast buffet settings go for your cereal, yogurt or fruits first. Follow this by hot cereal. Tea, coffee or hot chocolate and the bread basket.


– Arrive earlier than your guests

– Choose a table

– Welcome your guests

– Use your napkin

– Direct people to the buffet table

– No sampling allowed once at the buffet line, take a little now and more later

– Take smaller portions of food, avoid overloading your plate.

– Start eating when at least 70% of the guests on the table are seated with food.

– Engage in rapport, lighten the mood

– Enjoy your food

The buffet is generally a cheaper way to host with more courses to enjoy. Remember my quick etiquette tip. Do not forget you will also be billed fully when it comes to buffet dining no matter if you eat very little or all you can now not later. Try to glide through as much as you can. Optimize every opportunity in life, learn to taste your food and not just chew it.

Dining is like dancing, take it one step at a time!

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