When starting your buffet make sure you have a starting point with all your food items.  Stay consistent where your placement of food items and keep this pattern every day.  This will train your customers of where everything is day after day and will also speed up the line on either side of the buffet.

PrimaKeys has put a small list together to help restaurants stay focused eliminating food waste along with hygiene practices sometimes forgotten by your competitors.

  1. Constantly do a walk around your buffet for food items. Take note on which food items are used the most and which days.  This is important because depending on location, items on your buffet will impact by your clientele.  During the lunch hour office staff from nearby businesses may have a higher yield on veggies vs fried foods later in the evening.
  2. Never fill any of your items to the rim but rather fill 1/3 to ½ full. This will eliminate food waste and the amount of electricity to maintain proper heat.
  3. NEVER put new food from the kitchen on top of old food. The best practice is to take the platter out from the buffet and replace it with fresh food from the kitchen.  While the food that was taken back to the kitchen does have a buffet life span and so circulating and putting the old on top of the new is best practice.
  4. Encourage patrons to use clean plate when getting seconds. Using a used plate can cause the spread of viruses and is unsanitary and may spread germs and bacteria.  So, with this said have plates on each side of the buffet.
  5. Make sure you have utensils for each dish on your buffet. Sharing between dishes may be a serious issue when nowadays people have a high allergic reaction to peanuts or fired foods.
  6. Silverware should always be placed down NEVER FACING UP. This sounds like common-sense but often we see where silverware facing up and guests will be touching several spoons to get one out for example.  This is also best practice if you’re not going to wrap silverware with a napkin to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria.
  7. Name your items in your buffet. Today people are programmed to be more conscience on what they eat.  If you have room the best buffets will give information like nutrition facts per serving.
  8. Keep an accurate record on food item temperatures and which foods have been cycled. Best practice would have a buffet map in the kitchen and put a time when food was cycled and the current temp for all dishes.  This will help your buffet keep great food great.
  9. When storing your food always place date/time on your dishes. Too often as a consultant we will see food stored with no idea on how long the food was in the refrigerator.  Best practice is to use the food the very next day and clean your holding container.  Never store containers anymore then a day.  The reasoning behind this is if you store food for periods longer then a day food on the bottom of the container will probably never be used and bacteria and gems can grow even inside a refrigerator.  Getting a smaller container just for the night is best.
  10. Every buffet should have a sanitation wipes or cream on each end of the buffet.

The list above are good starting points for any buffet restaurant.  However, there are things that I personally love and hate inside restaurants.  Just because the buffet is great may not be the reason for my return.  In addition, there are some security levels that should also be provided to protect the business.

  1. Restroom should be monitored and cleaned every hour. There should be a log on the back of the door of when it was lasted cleaned and from who.  With this said having paper towel inside of the restrooms is also best practice.  Many industries like to push the air-blower to reduce costs for purchasing paper towels.  However, this isn’t a night club; it’s your restaurant and germs and bacteria can be blown everywhere on the person and they often return to the buffet.
  2. Keep food off the kitchen floor. Best rule of thumb is always put food on a shelf at least one foot off the ground.
  3. Cooks should have two aprons. One for the kitchen and the other one for checking the buffet.
  4. MSDS should be in several places. Typically, we recommend one in the main office and the other by the swing door in the kitchen.  Have every chemical that your restaurant uses in the book.
  5. Free Wi-Fi and proper setup. Offering free Wi-Fi is great but make sure you offer this service to everyone including non-customers.  In addition, make sure it’s setup correctly and before your customers can use the web display your business name and your terms and conditions with “I Agree” check box before they can surf the web.  This protects your business and adds another layer of protection for both parties.  Hotels & motels do this all the time and it’s a great practice.
  6. AVOID wireless POS system. Wireless jammers are becoming popular nowadays.  If you have wireless as a simple way to prevent hard wiring you may want to reconsider.  Wireless is screaming NOT SECURE.  Free packet sniffers on the web can allow eavesdropping on your business and other customers.  However, this isn’t our point.  Wireless jammers can also prevent your system from talking to your bank when someone is trying to pay.  Without a direct signal the jammer can act as a block from the transmission from getting threw and act like a system failure.  Often the customer in this act can also perform a pretty good at role-playing and cause a small scene to get away with free lunch/dinner.
  7. Make sure you have you a system that can help prevent fraudulent guests. Often enough there are those individuals that will call their bank and say they were double charged.  This leaves the merchant a fine of $30 plus a full return of the second meal.  When our consultants explain how this happens and how easily this is preventable, we showed the merchants that sometimes people don’t always tell the truth.  In this example, we examined how the POS was being used.  We’ve found that when a customer leaves a tip it should be done all in one transaction.  Having customers pay their bill and sign and write down the tip is old-school.  We also found that guests can return twice in one day getting the same meal twice.  This looks as though the merchant charged them twice when in fact the customer came-in twice.  Sounds silly but too often this happens to restaurants.  So, in other words having a POS system that requires the customer to face the machine or portable unit when signing will also take a picture and complete the entire transaction including tip all in one shot.  When and if someone calls their bank for a double charge you can get the transaction ID from the bank and prove to them that this customer came in twice that day with proof.  Depending on your POS system you will now have the customers name and last four of the card being used an pull-up an entire history of when that card was used in your restaurant.  PLEASE NOTE:  Never encounter the customer when they return to your restaurant.  People can make mistakes and had no intentions of stealing.  Conduct business as usual with the love of your restaurant and your customers.