Buffet etiquette question: new plate every trip?

I haven’t eaten at a lot of buffets, so I’m not sure what the proper etiquette is regarding plates.

At a big buffet, the servers are constantly clearing plates and so it seems that a new plate for each trip is a no-brainer. However, the other day I was eating at a small Indian restaurant buffet, and I felt guilty/stupid for getting a new plate for each trip. However, I also thought it might be gross (for the other patrons) if I re-used a plate, kind of like double-dipping a chip.

What’s the etiquette and does it change depending on the size of the place? For the record, I got a new plate for each trip but felt self-conscious about creating a bunch of extra dirty plates that would have to be washed.

You should always use a new plate for each trip. I believe it’s the law in many places.

The few times I’ve been coerced or taken to one of these places (don’t get me started) I’ve always gotten a new plate each trip. There’s a giant stack of constantly refilled plates for a reason.

Yeah, it’s the law around here. And it’s cleaner. Don’t feel bad doing it. Signs at my Indian buffets encourage you to.

Thanks, everyone. I guess I was just over-thinking it. Now I want to go to the Indian buffet again. I swear I could eat about five plates of gulab jamun.

Totally. It’s not only gross but it’s unhygienic.

Etiquette I’ll add: if it’s an all you can eat buffet that means, obviously, you can refill your plate as often as you like. For this reason please don’t load down a plate like it’s you’re laying in for a siege- plates piled 4 inches high with food are just tacky and a nuisance (I’ve seen too many people lose half their cargo en route back to the table). Most people aren’t going to notice or care if you go back 5 times and if they do, so what?

yes, every buffet I’ve ever been to has had signs at the serving tables that say use a clean plate every time.

Against the law in CA.

The law, man! THE LAW!! At any given moment they have undercover agents at half the all-you-can-eat buffets in CA. How do you thing we got into this budget crisis :p?

Suuuure, you might get away with it once or twice. But after you’ve been tackled, tasered, then beaten with a baton and fined a $100,000, you’ll think twice about re-using your filthy, soiled plates again ;).

ETA: Y’know, re-reading your post I think I misunderstood. So never mind.

I just lick my plate clean and head on back to the buffet.

My fault, poor wording. I meant “you can get another plate and return to the buffet five times”.

Yeah, definitely the law.

And think, if the person who got a refill before you didn’t use a clean plate, that means the serving spoon or spatula he used touched his dirty plate, then went back into the food, potentially transferring bacteria from his mouth via his utensils back into the common pan of food. So, yeah, a new plate is good hygiene practice.

*“A siege! Oh, turn the horse around. I’m going home, back home to Tara, right away.”

“What ails you?”

“A siege! Name of God, a siege! I’ve heard about sieges! Pa was in one or maybe it was his Pa, and Pa told me—”

“What siege?”

“The siege at Drogheda when Cromwell had the Irish, and they didn’t have anything to eat and Pa said they starved and died in the streets and finally they ate all the cats and rats and even things like cockroaches. And he said they ate each other too, before they surrendered, though I never did know whether to believe that or not. And when Cromwell took the town all the women were— A Siege! Mother of God!”*

Huh? How so? Put something on a plate, eat it, put something else on the plate. How is that gross or unhygienic?

If you’re all sitting round a dinner table and you’ve cleared your plate, is it unhygienic to grab seconds from the food bowls on the table?

Yikes. If this is unhygienic, then I’m the most disgusting person around. It would never occur to me that a plate I’ve just finished eating off has suddenly become unsuitable for me to continue eating off.

Ah, now I get it. Yes, that’s a good point. The serving spoon didn’t occur to me.

A Dishwasher’s job:
Pick up plate, place in dish rack.
Pick up plate, place in dish rack.
Pick up plate, place in dish rack.
Pick up plate, place in dish rack.
Pick up plate, place in dish rack.
Pick up plate, place in dish rack.
Pick up plate, place in dish rack.
Pick up plate, place in dish rack.
Pick up plate, place in dish rack.
Pick up plate, place in dish rack.
Pick up plate, place in dish rack.
Pick up plate, place in dish rack.
Slide dish rack into machine.
Putaway clean plates.
Repeat for 8 hours.

A few extra plates won’t make a difference.

Then why not worry about the germs you could get from other people putting their hands on the serving spoons? I can follow what cochrane says, but I’m not convinced that it isn’t a negligible thing to be concerned about.

Used plates are unhygienic. However, IMO, the unsupervised kids are worse. The kids are apt to do all sorts of things at the buffet that are not really sanitary, and the parents (or whoever) are not supervising them, or not supervising them enough.

Reason #583 why I no longer eat at buffets, if I can possibly avoid it.

I don’t drag the serving spoon across my plate every time I serve myself food. I don’t think I ever touch my plate with the serving spoon at all. And frankly, even if every person in the restaurant set the serving utensil for each dish on their plate every time they went to the buffet, it would spread fewer germs than breathing in the restaurant. It’s not like I lick my plate either, you know. Should people wear face masks when they go through the line, too?

It’s a formal matter of hygiene, rather than a practical one. The transference of bacteria from mouth to plate, then plate to serving utensil is going to be minuscule - greatly outweighed by the sources of contamination you can’t really control (airborne bacteria, people touching the business end of serving utensils, etc).

This is one of those things that is done to reassure people that hygiene precautions are being observed, rather than to offer any meaningful, measurable level of protection.
(Well, it might also be done to stop people putting items back that they took too much of, then decided they didn’t like)

Let’s hope that the restaurant has one of those no-touch automatic soap dispensers in the bathroom. That way, each person eating the buffet (who all wash their hands before going to the buffet table) won’t have picked up germs from the soap dispenser before washing their hands. :smiley:

My personal experience with buffets is to turn around and leave if there’s a lot of kids around. I’ve seen unattended children putting their hands into the food on the buffet table…immediately after having their fingers in their nose.

If any ungloved hands are touching the serving utensils, bacteria is likely being transferred to the food.

Buffets are pretty gross.

However, I do firmly believe that we’ve turned into an anemic, sickly society because of this germophobia. Our immune systems get lazy from constant handwashing and use of sanitizers, etc.