Las Vegas Buffet Etiquette and Advice

All-you-can-eat buffets are no longer the bargain they once were in Las Vegas, but they do make a good option for solo travelers who want a quick meal without eating fast food. (They’re also great for the indecisive-you don’t have to choose! You can have a little of everything!) With buffets, there is no awkward wait time between when you order and your server brings you your food. There’s no need to feel self-conscious dining alone, as few people will know that you are. People are getting up from the table all the time at buffets–you never know who is alone and whose companion just got up to get some dessert.

Most of you have probably eaten at buffets many times before, but for those of you who haven’t–or haven’t done so alone–I offer the following advice and some Vegas buffet etiquette.

Buffet

Buffet

Most Vegas buffets do not have restrooms inside the restaurant; they’re generally outside, off the casino. So it’s best to use the bathroom before you enter the restaurant.

Wash your hands before going into the buffet. I like to bring a bottle of Purell with me to sanitize my hands once I’m seated and before I eat, too. Because by now, I’ve touched all those serving utensils, which have been touched by countless other hands that have been God-knows-where. Better safe than sorry.

You can either wait at your table to place your drink order with your waiter/waitress or go ahead and get your first round of food before placing your drink order. Either way is fine.

Since you’re a solo diner, you can’t just look for your dining companion to know where your table is, so unless you’ve left a personal item (like a book) there, memorize the exact location of your table before you head for the buffet line. (It’s like trying to remember where you parked your car in a crowded parking lot!)

Unlike most restaurants, you don’t have to worry that your waitstaff will think you’ve left the restaurant when you get up from the table for any reason. When you arrive, you pay at the door. Your receipt is left on the table while you are in the process of dining. When you’re ready to leave, you take it with you. That’s their signal that you’re gone for good.

dining room

Memorize where your table is

I always walk the length of the buffet first, to see what’s available before getting in line for food. That way I can prioritize what I want to try.

If you have to sneeze or cough, do so into the crook of your arm, not your hand—and certainly do not cough or sneeze into the air.

No cutsies. Lines operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Luckily, most if not all buffets in Vegas have food “stations”, so you are faced with many smaller lines rather than one big line. If you’re not interested in the food at one station, move on to the next one.

Even if the food you want looks like finger food, do not use your fingers at the buffet station. Use the utensils provided to pick up the food and put it on your plate.

Don’t nibble at food while you’re in the buffet line. Wait until you get to your table.

Don’t take more food than you can eat. You’re allowed to go back to the buffet as many times as you want, so just take the amount of food you’re sure you can eat now.

Dessert station

Dessert "station"

Don’t worry if they’re running out of something you want. The kitchen will replenish the dish as soon as they have made some more.

Since you don’t know what items you’ll actually like, it’s best to take very small portions of everything you try for the first time. That way, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat a whole pile of it or waste food.

When you go back for seconds (which you probably will), leave your dirty plate at your table. Someone will come along and clear it away for you. Get a fresh plate at the buffet for your next round.

Non-alcoholic beverages are generally included in the price of the buffet, so if you object to the high prices of say, orange juice, at normal restaurants, now’s your chance to have as much as you want.

Coffee and juice

Nonalcoholic drinks are included

There are no doggie bags at buffets. You can eat as much as you want while you’re there, but that’s where it ends.

Yes, you should tip your waiter or waitress, even if their only job is to bring your drink and clear your plates. 10% of the cost of the buffet is fine.

One final note. . .I realize the temptation with a buffet is to eat as much food as possible to “get your money’s worth”, but try to stop before you hurt yourself. It kinda sucks to spend the money and enjoy all that food only to spend the next few hours in the bathroom because you’ve made yourself sick eating too much.

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  1. I eat at a local buffet solo all the time. It’s an Indian restaurant, and no one I know will ever join me (and my desire for fresh naan and mint chutney will never go away!) The other day I was there and there were three other people in the restaurant. We were ALL solo! Clearly, buffets are good solo dining options!

    That or those three other people didn’t have any Indian food-loving friends either!

    I’d never have thought to do a big buffet–like in Vegas–alone. I think I’ve been traumatized by cruise ship buffets, where you typically find a seat AFTER having filled up your plate. There’s nothing worse than having a plate full of food and nowhere to sit down to eat it! (Ok there are many worse things–but you get my point!) ;-)

  2. Tracy – Yeah, I know what you mean about having to find a seat. That’s typically what scares me off from crowded fast food restaurants, too. You should start a solo dining club with those folks from the Indian restaurant! LOL.

    Bonnie – For shame. ;-) To be honest, as I was pulling these together, I had this moment of paranoia wondering if I’d ever done any of these things without being aware of it, because sometimes you’re just not thinking about what you’re doing (lost in thought or whatever). I hope not, but….

  3. I just found your site the other day. It’s fantastic. I’ve been to WDW and DL solo many times and this will be my first solo Vegas trip and thanks to your site I am much more excited!!!!

  4. Great list of tips, Gray. But, does that trick of just leaving your receipt always work? I’d be afraid that was too subtle and they might clear my table and set it up for the next party if that’s all I did to hold my place. A friend told me that he once left the table with his wife to get more food at a small, non-Casino buffet and when they got back, antoher couple had been seated there! And the last piece of pecan pie he had been saving was gone too.

    My method is to always bring a newsparer with me which serves two purposes. It saves my place and gives me something to read. If I bring a book I have to worry about losing it, but a newspaper, who cares. Although one time I did return to my table to find that a woman at a nearby table–also solo–thought I had left and stole my newspaper!

    Another benefit of a solo buffet is you don’t have someone giving you the evil eye for taking too much food. Flip side is, as you point out, maybe it is a good idea to have someone keep you from overstuffing yourself.

  5. Hi, Rob – I’ve never left a personal item at my table, and I’ve never had my table given away on me. So either I’m extraordinarily lucky or the receipt works pretty well.

  6. Great tips , Gray. I probably go through 3 small bottles of hand sanitizer during a week-long trip to LV. I almost always wait to order my drink before going to get my first plate / appetizer / salad … whatever , just so the server knows who is sitting there and that I did just get there. I agree with first scoping out the serving stations to see what else is served. To me, there is nothing worse than filling up on prime rib or chicken before noticing the chinese or mexican dishes that I may have enjoyed as well, if I hadn’t stuffed myself.
    The size of the juice in the photo above reminds me of something I now do. Ask for a drink unless you seriously do want that large drink as most places will just give you the big drink.

  7. I meant to say , ask for a small drink if you really don’t want to large sized one. I sometimes as for this small drink when I am getting a refill, if needed.

  8. Never can be too careful. ;) I wheel my way around and The Strip can get pretty messy at times. I do wear gloves sometimes too , but I’m usually too eager to get where I wanna go to remember to put them on all the time. lol

  9. Thanks, Kent! I’m a light eater, but I do love to sample lots of different kinds of foods, so I really have to pace myself at a buffet.

  10. But Gray, you missed off my biggest annoyance at buffets – people who see a large tray of food and then just scrape the topping off the entire tray. This is one of the reasons I think I like the Wicked Spoon buffet so much – the individual servings are not only cute but also prevent people from taking what is rightly mine – the crunchy topping on an artisan mac cheese!

    And whilst your point about items getting constantly replenished is true, it still does annoy me when the guy in front of you stacks his plate high with the last 14 crab legs, or the last 9 slices of pizza. Whatever happened to sharing nicely?

  11. Oh, I’m with you, Paul. But, wow–scrapers? I’ve never seen that before and am horrified that it happens! Yes, let’s add them to the list of “offenders”. Thanks for contributing!

  12. I have a question. When dining at a buffet, I see people immediately take their plates etc off the carrying tray and place them on the table. Then they look around for a place to put the tray and often put it on an unoccupied table. I usually just leave the tray under my plate while I eat. What is proper?

  13. I haven’t been to a buffet in Las Vegas that used carrying trays, but I’d treat it like a cafeteria. Keep the tray under your plate on your table. Unless there’s a stand nearby where it’s obvious you’re supposed to stack them, like there often is at places like McDonalds.

  14. I’ll definitely remember to bring hand sanitizer and go to the bathroom before hitting the buffet. Especially when you said drink up LOL

  15. Indeed, Cassandra. Because isn’t that one of the oldest solo diner dilemmas–how to go to the restroom without the waitstaff thinking you’re not coming back?