Food & Drink

All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Employee Answers All the Questions You Were Afraid to Ask

buffet worker
JGA/Shutterstock

Buffets by their nature are a little dubious. Probably because they're the closest we get to actually just eating out of a trough like livestock. You just have to assume that some shady stuff is going on behind the scenes to facilitate this much food for bargain-barrel prices, no?

Chain-buffet employee and aptly named Redditor BuffetWorker took to the interweb to dispel some buffet myths, and candidly spill the workplace secrets he's learned over four years of working for a chain buffet (for the sake of this piece, we'll just refer to this anonymous tipster as "Gary"). Fortunately for all-you-can-eaters, most of the answers here are surprisingly positive.

Except what goes on in the bathroom...

Seriously -- do they use leftover food the day after?

It's the one question that plagues every buffet enthusiast's mind. Fortunately, "Gary" said it happens infrequently.

"As far as I know, we only use leftover chicken and steak for things like fajita mixes," he said. "98% of all items are cooked that day."

Really, is there anything gross we should know about the food?

When his previous comments surprised some users, they continually prodded the dude to see if there was anything nasty about the food his establishment served, to no avail.

"No. There's really nothing to worry about eating there," Gary said, reiterating that most of the food they serve is pretty fresh, with old food being rotated off the floor pretty frequently.

... But he did say he saw his manager drop a piece of roast beef on the ground, wash it off, and still serve it. Overall, I feel like this is all positive news for buffet fans. Well, except the person that ate that roast beef. 

All the food is pre-packaged and frozen though, right?

Yes, it can't all be good news. Gary did acknowledge that all the food -- from vegetables to meat -- comes pre-packaged and frozen.

But, that's to be expected, really. It could be much worse.

chinese buffet
Christian Mueller/Shutterstock

What's the worst thing he's seen while working?

So as you can see, some of the most unpleasant things that happen in buffets, don't even involve the food. Proceed with caution:

"Uh, when customers get mad at the management sometimes they take dumps on the bathroom floor, or smear shit on the walls," he said. 

While that seems a little... off, he confirmed his statement multiple times. Another buffet worker even weighed in:

"I used to work at a buffet place and there were regularly dumps on the floor or shit on the walls. I didn't realize it was a thing," said user MattTheCat.

Do people ever put food in their pockets/purses?

"Every now and then the managers will whisper to me to watch table whatever because they believe one of the old ass ladies sitting there is taking some fried chicken into her purse. I just ignore that, I'm not bringing that up in front of a whole family," Gary said.

Well, when you're old you can get away with that shit. 

Should we be tipping buffet workers?

One of the first things Gary addressed was the tipping situation. He said that when he started, he didn't even know buffet workers got tips, but he's walked away from a shift with $150 in tips before. His biggest single tip was a cool $36 (not bad for a chain buffet), with the average being about a buck a person.

But if you forget, it's not that big of a deal.

"To be honest, I really don't care if it's just one or two people. People ask me 'Do people tip here?' and I tell them the honest truth: about 50% do, and 50% don't. The only time I get pissed off is when a big party leaves me nothing."

They have to see a lot of wolf T-shirts, right? Hopefully?

The answer here is a hard yes

"One guy wears a wolf shirt every time he comes in, it's amazing. I have friends who think the wolf shirts are a joke and nobody wears them, but I see more than half a dozen a day, at least," he said. 

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Wil Fulton is a staff writer for Thrillist. He's never once peed on a busboy, but once he threw up on a horse. Follow him @wilfulton.