How To Tell If a Buffet Restaurant Is Safe

Buffet restaurants continue to be a popular choice for people around the country. They are affordable for families. They offer a variety of food choices. Buffets are also a perfect option for those who want a quick meal but would rather avoid fast food. 

However, some people think that buffet restaurants are unsanitary and worry that they will get food poisoning or an illness. It is fair to think about these concerns. Not all buffets are created equal. Instead of avoiding every buffet and missing out on some delicious food, look the restaurant over with a critical eye before you dig in.

Is There a Food Shield?

Food shields, or sneeze guards, are installed above the food at a buffet to stop the spread of respiratory droplets. Droplets can spread through coughing, sneezing and even speaking. These droplets hold germs, so you do not want them on your food.

Most states require food shields for buffet restaurants, but the guidelines vary. In general, look for guards that are five to six feet from the ground. They should shield the face of an average size person. They must also be rigid. You do not want an overly excited teenager to be able to push shields aside. Make sure they are clean. Sneeze guards should be wiped down with bleach and water on a regular basis.

Is the Temperature Accurate?

Check that the food being served is at a safe temperature, especially the meat. Food not kept at the correct temperature may contain bacteria and could make you sick. Cold food must be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot food should be kept above 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Most dinners do not travel with temperature probes, but this is something to keep in mind. Take note of how much steam is rising from hot dishes. Does food seem lukewarm or hot? Are cold items still firm, or are they melting? Room temperature food is a big red flag.

Is the Restaurant Kept Clean?

Five minutes of observation can tell you how important cleanliness is to the employees of a restaurant. Look at the tables and other surfaces to see how clean they are. If you can spot the rag tables are cleaned with that is even better. Wiping a table with a dirty rag soaking in dirty water does not make it clean. Also, check the silverware for spots and old food remnants. If the serving ware isn’t kept clean, then the buffet probably isn’t either.