Keep Your Buffet Safe for Customers


A buffet can be a very convenient food option for patrons, permitting them to select what they want and take only what they need. When offering a buffet, however, you must always exercise caution and put safety first to avoid cross-contamination, which can cause serious illness. This begins during prep work and continues until the buffet is closed for business.

During Prep Work

Before putting food out for patrons, wash it thoroughly under running water (if applicable). Then, use specific utensils and cutting boards to slice and dice. Make sure that the utensils are used only for these products.

  • Use separate utensils and cutting boards for meat, poultry and other food items containing animal byproducts.
  • If you are offering soups, meats and seafood, cook these items at proper temperatures as outlined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

During Buffet Setup

Once the food is cooked, begin to place it on the buffet. To protect your dishes, ensure that sneeze guards or food shields are properly placed and are clean.

  • Place long-handled spoons and tongs into foods for patrons to serve themselves easily. Replace these utensils at least every four hours.
  • Label all foods and dressings properly so that patrons will not be tempted to taste dishes to identify what the items are before putting it on their plates.
  • Avoid setting the buffet earlier than necessary. If some foods sit out too long, they will spoil.

During Meal Time

To prevent foodborne illnesses, foods must be kept at specific temperatures. Hot items must be kept at 140º F or warmer and cold items must be kept at 40º F or colder.

  • Check food temperatures with a thermometer at least every two hours to ensure that they are still safe to eat.
  • Egg and meat products, cooked foods and items containing mayonnaise should be monitored closely. These products tend to spoil quickly and should not be kept out for more than two hours.
  • Encourage your patrons to use new plates when they visit the buffet for additional helpings.
  • Clean up spills and soils immediately.
  • Replenish food frequently and never place fresh foods in the same containers as others that have been sitting for a while.

Do Your Part

Taking food safety precautions isn’t just a good idea—it’s expected. If you have any food handling safety questions, ask your supervisor.


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