The Crucial Dishware Mistake You Should Never Make At Buffets

Buffets boast a wide array of options and give you the chance to decide which foods and how much of them you want to enjoy. However, the fact that everyone is in charge of their own plates is also what makes buffets slightly questionable when it comes to hygiene. To avoid putting yourself and others at risk, there's one dishware faux pas you should never commit.

Stacks of freshly washed plates are constantly being replenished at the start of a buffet line. Looking at these piles, you might think that cleaning a surplus of just barely dirty dishes is a waste of time and resources, tempting you to do the polite and sustainable thing and reuse your plate — but don't! Clean plates aren't just offered as a means of elevating your dining experience, they're actually encouraged as a way to keep you safe.

Once you've eaten off a plate, there are traces of food and bacteria from your mouth that linger on its surface. As you travel through the buffet again, serving utensils will come into contact with your dirty plate, leading to cross-contamination. Plus, since buffet lines are kept warm, this also creates the perfect conditions for harmful bacteria to thrive, putting you and fellow diners at risk of contracting foodborne illnesses like E. coli or Salmonella when you reuse plates.

Keep things sanitary and grab a new plate for each trip to the buffet

The basis of all buffet etiquette is to be mindful of others. Since buffets are a shared space, exercising good manners and good hygiene are the best way to ensure everyone has a positive experience. That said, now that you know plates should never be reused, etiquette is also involved when selecting clean dishware. Make sure to only touch the plate you will use. After all, each freshly washed plate is a "clean" plate.

Moreover, even with a brand-new plate, there are still measures to take to avoid cross-contamination. In order to keep the area as clean as possible, don't swap serving utensils as this is inconsiderate of other guests who might not want remnants of deviled egg filling mixed with saucy meatballs — it can even be particularly dangerous also if someone has a life-threatening food allergy. Along the same line, use the appropriate spoons and ladles to scoop sauces and dressings rather than dip food into sauces.

Last but not least, whatever you do, remember not to eat from your plate while you're still in line. Along with being a poor display of manners, this again puts you in a situation where saliva and food residues can be more easily spread from your plate onto serving utensils and dishes themselves.