When it comes to AYCE buffets, you may have heard about the ones in Las Vegas. Those are serious buffets, like the aptly named Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Palace. The dishes may include outrageous options, like excellent Wagyu beef or fresh crabs straight from Alaska.
These Vegas casinos may even lose a bit of money on these buffets, but they’re actually more for PR purposes. They get potential gamblers in the door, and afterwards most of them lose money to compensate for the losses caused by the buffets.
Diners also tend to develop a more positive attitude towards the hotel casino, and afterwards they may plan on staying there for a few nights just because of the fantastic buffet.
Sadly, not all buffets are as fantastic as the ones in Las Vegas. Some all-you-can-eat restaurants are just bad. Here are some tips to help you identify these bad buffets.
Poor Sanitation Scores
The FDA regularly inspects dining establishments, though they only do so every 4 years or so. Many states require these restaurants to openly display their sanitation scores, but not all states do. Even if you do find these scores displayed, they don’t generally show any previous violations.
What you can do is to go through your local health department and search through their database for restaurant sanitation scores. You can then find put if a restaurant has a long history of critical violations of sanitation rules.
Where are the Sneeze Guards?
The sneeze guards are the glass pieces that you look through to see the food. They’re there not just to protect the food from sneezing customers, which is even more crucial now in the post-Covid age. They protect the food from hair and just about anything else.
If your buffet doesn’t have these sneeze guards (or the sneeze guards are tiny), then beware. You’re risking your health here.
It’s a Resto on Weekdays, But a Buffet on Weekends
Many restaurants have this trick of enticing patrons with their “specials”, but these dishes aren’t actually all that special (at least not in a good way). These dishes are actually made with unsold foodstuff, as an attempt to sell them before they spoil.
For the weekday resto slash weekend buffet, it may very well be the same thing. The restaurant may be using the weekend buffet to get rid of the food items that are on the verge of spoiling. So, don’t expect fresh ingredients like what you might find at a Vegas buffet. For this type of restaurant, you may be dealing with recycled food.
It’s true that the food can still be perfectly alright. After all, we’ve all turned leftovers into new dishes at home (especially after Thanksgiving). But when we do this, at least we know how close the food is to spoiling. You’re taking your chances at the weekend buffet.
Unknown Food Ingredients
When you go to a regular restaurant, you have a menu that may list down the ingredients for each dish. Even if these ingredients aren’t explicitly listed, you can always ask the server or manager about them.
With buffets, you may not have that kind of information to work with. In fact, in some bad buffets, you sometimes can’t even tell what these ingredients are just by looking at them. When you’re at a dining establishment and offered food that you can’t really tell on sight if it’s chicken or fish, then perhaps you may want to just say no.
Where are the Servers?
One of the ways that buffets can cut down on cost is the reduced number of servers. After all, they don’t need these servers to take your orders and bring your food to your table. But buffets still need these workers, and if you can’t find them, you may have problems.
One bad sign is when you leave your table with the dirty dishes (perhaps to go to the men’s or ladies’ room), and when you get back, the dirty plates are still there. This may not be dire if it happens rarely, but it’s a bad sign if it happens too frequently.
Perhaps the servers are busy somewhere else. But if there aren’t really too many diners, then they be busy at the back of the establishment. Maybe they’re working on something else—such as a sanitation issue.
Or maybe the servers just don’t really work that hard, and the establishment doesn’t really care about the professionalism of their employees. In that case, you really ought to be worried about the quality of the food.