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.
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.
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.
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.
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.