5 "Polite" Things You Do at a Breakfast Buffet That Are Actually Rude

Keep your hands off the coffee maker—no matter how long you've been a barista.

When you've just woken up in a strange bed in a strange city, the last thing you really want to be pondering is where you're going to get the most important meal of the day. That's why hotel breakfast buffets are such a boon to travelers: they take the guesswork and planning out of sourcing your first bite of food in the morning.

In addition to pondering where to eat, another thing we weary travelers don't want to deal with before noon is having our breakfast ritual interrupted by a clueless do-gooder—aka someone who thinks they're being polite at a buffet but is actually ruining the experience for other guests.

Many of us are guilty of making some buffet faux pas, and not only at the complimentary hotel breakfast buffet. Below are five things you might do at a buffet that you think are polite but are actually rude.

1. Making Everyone Waffles

You may try to justify it by claiming that you're just making things more efficient for the next person, but leaving waffle batter in a waffle iron doesn't do anyone any favors. First of all, you never really know if that person in line after you actually wants a waffle, and even if they did want a waffle, they may have their own preferred way of making them.

Plus, if there's nobody directly behind you in line to make a waffle, the next person who approaches the waffle iron is going to have a very unpleasant surprise in the form of something that looks like a miniature charred sewer cap. Then some other customer or employee will have to deal with your misdirected "politeness" as they pry the fossilized breakfast treat from its iron grate.

If you really get joy out of making breakfast for others and it's an integral part of your day, then ask a fellow diner if they'd like you to prepare them a waffle. You might just make a new friend.

2. Reusing Your Plate

You'll see a sign posted at many buffets, and it's there for a reason: Always use a clean plate for every trip to the buffet. An informal buffet at your home is different from a hotel or restaurant buffet. While at home, you may have a limited number of dishes and an even more limited number of hands to wash them—so you welcome people reusing plates. Commercial kitchens don't have the same issues. But they do have bigger things to worry about, including cross-contamination and foodborne illnesses, both of which can result from customers reusing plates.

We may not always be conscious of it, but when we serve or are served food at a buffet, the serving spoons will sometimes come into contact with the plate. Now, if that plate is clean, we generally don't have much to worry about. But if that plate has remnants of food that touched eating utensils that have been in your mouth, it can present a major health risk.

a photo of three people at a hotel breakfast bar
Getty Images

3. “Fixing” the Food

Picture it: You stroll through a buffet, clean plate in hand, and you stumble across a pan of french fries that could really use some more salt, so you grab a saltshaker and let it rain. Or, you see that the cauldron of oatmeal has developed a skin on top, so you skim off the film and discard it on a nearby plate, thus saving your fellow diners from eating unpleasant oatmeal.

While we may fancy ourselves good Samaritans when we "fix" culinary problems we see, it's not our job to mess with the food on a buffet table. Firstly, our own ideas of what is properly made may not be to everyone's liking. Besides being rude to the employees and guests, fiddling around too much with the food at a buffet can lead to the spread of illness. If something doesn't look too appetizing, bring it up to an employee.

4. Playing Chef

We've all been stuck at a buffet where the food was below average or just a little boring, and some of us have been stuck on weeklong cruises that have led us to blow all our souvenir money on food whenever we reached a port. But regardless of how bad the situation is and how ingenious you fancy yourself to be in the kitchen, a buffet is not the place to play chef.

What I mean by playing chef is coming up with concoctions from different things you find at the buffet. You might try to dress some French toast by stuffing it with some strawberry cream cheese you whipped up at the table, sprinkling it with sugar, and then passing it through the conveyor belt toaster oven in a desperate attempt to make something interesting.

But in the end, you're opening up a huge can of worms. That genius French toast idea may drip into the machine and cause it to malfunction. Or maybe it is a success, but now six other diners are trying to do the same thing and each is adding their own twist to it. Before you know it, the dining room looks like an anarchist cooking competition, and the staff all have you to blame.

It feels rude to complain about there being nothing suitable to eat, so it may seem like a better idea to try and make something yourself. But if you really find yourself with few palatable options, just ask an employee if there is something the kitchen can prepare for you rather than showing off your cooking skills with a waffle iron.

5. Preparing the Coffee

There are few worse things than coming down to the hotel breakfast buffet and finding that the coffeepot is empty. It gives us the same feeling as going to an amusement park and discovering that all the rides are closed. But just as you shouldn't try to operate amusement park rides on your own, you shouldn't just volunteer to make the pot of coffee for everyone, no matter how long you've worked as a barista.

For starters, not all coffee makers function the same, and you may not know exactly how to operate this particular one. In addition, the hotel or restaurant may have a certain way they make the coffee that customers are accustomed to. Tampering with that may result in a whole pot having to be thrown out.

Also, you may not know exactly how much coffee needs to be made that morning. The staff will have a better idea of how many customers they're expecting. You may be the only diner at the buffet that morning, and the staff may have been waiting for you to arrive to make you your own personal pot of coffee. Whatever the reason is, it's always best to leave the coffee making to an employee who knows how to make the coffee in a safe and hygienic way so that everyone can enjoy it.

Bottom Line

Buffets are a great option for diners to get just enough of what they want to eat or try a little bit of everything. Because diners serve themselves, we sometimes assume that buffets are free-for-alls. However, many of us have seen our favorite buffets decline because too many diners think they're being polite but are actually being rude and interfering with how the buffet operates. At hotel breakfast buffets or any other buffet, being aware of some of these rude behaviors we might think are polite can help make the difference between someone starting their day on the right foot or being grumpy until their next meal.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles