There's something kind of thrilling about an all-you-can-eat buffet. Who among us doesn't love loading up several plates with ungodly combinations of foods that were never, ever meant to go together?
But have you ever wondered what those places are really like behind the scenes? Well, a viral Reddit thread once invited buffet workers of the internet to spill their wildest secrets...and trust me when I say, you MUST read all of them. Here are some of the wildest stories they shared:
1."Years ago, I worked at an all-you-can-eat country buffet in South Carolina. I was a busboy. One day, I went to a table. It was a mess, as per usual. It looked to be a large family/group of families of around 12 people or so. The thing that made them stick in my memory is that whenever they finished with what they were going to eat, they would scrape their plate and use it again. Scrape their plates...onto the floor next to their chairs. So next to each chair, there was a 6- to 18-inch pile of chicken bones, crab legs, mashed potatoes, remnants of baked potatoes, etc. Just disgusting."
2."Watched a man walk up to the buffet without a plate, untuck his T-shirt, pull the hem up to form a basket, reach into the steam tray of chicken wings with his bare hand, and just load up on hot wings in his makeshift shirt bucket. The woman in the kitchen was like, 'Please sir, could you use a plate. Or just tongs?' Guy scoffed and looked at her like she'd asked him to don a tuxedo."
3."I worked at a buffet in college. The salad was mixed in a giant black trash can full of water that was NEVER changed. We just opened new bags of salad and threw it in, mixed it up, and when the buffet ran low, used a strainer to pull out a pile."
4."I worked as a server at a Chinese buffet...I tried to pick up a dirty plate off a table that had a big pool of hibachi sauce/grease on it. The customer stopped me and said, 'That's the best part.' He then proceeded to drink the sauce like it was the milk after a bowl of cereal."
5."Chef asked me to cut up a box of oranges that had been sitting in storage since before I started working there. Poured out the contents of the box for washing and ended up pouring out 50 moldy green dust balls instead that looked like bath bombs from Lush or something. Chef told me to pick out the few good ones left and prepare them anyway. I was new, so I did."
6."The buffet I worked at had a chocolate fountain, and half of my time on the clock was spent trying to keep customers from sticking their fingers and other nonfood items into the fountain. I distinctly remember one woman with a cast on her arm who came up and started to dip some strawberries into the fountain. Next thing I know, she'd managed to stick most of her cast under the fountain so that the thing was basically coated with chocolate. Instead of trying to alert a staff member so the fountain could be closed down, sanitized, etc., she proceeded to casually walk back to her table and eat her dessert. I can't even keep track of the number of times we had to close down the chocolate fountain to replace the chocolate that had been contaminated because some idiot thought it would be funny to stick their hand or face in it."
7."Went as a customer to a buffet. I'm walking to the chocolate fountain and three little girls step in front of me, and all three of them just go hands-deep into the fountain. The family was the first table by the fountain, and all they did was laugh about how cute it was. Employees turned it off immediately."
8."At one point, I and two other family members worked at a buffet (each in different sections). My cousin worked the salad bar. Management would require her to keep seafood items on the bar long after they'd be safe to consume. I think the record was chilled shrimp from Mother's Day that stayed for over a week and a half. They finally caved and let her toss them when a customer complained about the smell."
11."My parents owned an all-you-can-eat buffet, and I was there every day of my life from age 4 to 14. My favorite horror story is when a couple came in to eat. They loveeed the crab legs, and every time my mom put some out, they took them ALL. Also, just a reminder, crab legs are expensive! Forget the other customers, they just took them and ate them all. So they’re there for maybe two hours now and it’s getting dark. They’ve eaten through at least a week’s stock of crab legs, and my mom finally decides it’s enough. She stops putting it out in the buffet and brings individual plates to the customers who wanted it but couldn’t get any because of this couple.
"The couple is angry. They literally flipped the chairs at their table, flipped their plates, bowls, cups, etc., and completely trashed their area. Food was all over the floor, table, chairs. Sticky soda was dripping into the carpet. They left in a hurry, but someone caught their license plate. We called the cops, and I think they said they charged them with something? I can’t remember the aftermath clearly, because I was probably 8 or 9 years old (I'm 20 now). I just remember looking at the mess and feeling really angry that my sister and I had to clean it up with our mom. It was a family-run business, so we didn’t have much help."
12."I bus at a slightly nicer restaurant. On Fridays and Sundays, we offer a prime rib and crab leg buffet. It's honestly pretty nice, and our buffet runner keeps anyone from doing ungodly things to the buffet. But the one incident that will always stand out to me was when this family of five came in.
"From the moment they came in to the moment they left, they ate as many crab legs as they possibly could. Their server and I were clearing plates off as fast as we could. But every time we would return, it seemed as if another mountain of crab leg shells would appear in front of each member of that family. I know not how they ate so much, and I honestly can't recall if they ate anything besides the crab. Piles upon piles of shells were left upon the table after they left. It was truly a sight to behold. What's more is, after I wiped down the table and came back with settings, I had to get another rag to wipe down the table again because something in the crab leg juice combined with our sanitizer and left a nice, milky residue on the table. Delicious. When I leave this job, I'll never be able to look at crab legs the same way."
13."I was once at a buffet, waiting patiently to get some mac 'n' cheese. The kid in front of me piled his plate high and then started tapping the serving spoon to get all of the cheesy goodness free from the confines of the spoon. Once he was satisfied with his handiwork, he licked the spoon clean. I didn't have any mac 'n' cheese and haven't been back since."
14."Not a worker, but I went to a buffet, and the kid in front of me was slightly shorter than the buffet bar but had his hands in the yellow Jell-O — just massaging it. Then his mom came by and snatched him away but didn't say anything while a guy came and made himself a bowl of Jell-O. Ten-year-old me was too appalled to say anything. I haven't eaten Jell-O since then."
16."I work in an all-you-can-eat that uses tablets. This is (according to my boss) based on a Japanese kind of restaurant. The premise is that people order their food in rounds and we then bring the food to their table when it is ready. We always warn customers beforehand that if they leave food behind because they ordered too much, they will have to pay extra.
"Depending on what they left behind, we have seen people try the weirdest stuff so they don't have to pay extra: dumping food in their handbags, shoving it in their mouths and then going to the toilet to flush it, putting hair on it and blaming us for it (we see them pull this stuff), etc. And when we actually catch them doing it, they blame us for it and refuse to pay. Some people let it come down to having the police sort it out — there have been multiple occasions when they were involved to solve the problem for just 5 euros. I guess some people’s greed has no end."
17."College friend worked at a Chinese buffet. He said they caught a regular dipping his pizza in the wonton soup bowl (like, in the queue and not at his table) and eating it. Bite, dip, bite, dip, bite, dip. After the fourth time in a month he did it, management finally kicked him out."
18."I was standing behind a woman at a buffet. She was getting some lasagna or something, basically a really cheesy pasta that, when you lift the serving utensil, a lot of cheese hangs on. I witnessed her lift her pasta, twirl all the excess cheese that was connected around her index finger (and there was a lot), clip it off with her thumbnail, and then fling it back into the pasta."
19."There was a fairly expensive restaurant in Dallas in the '80s called Southern Kitchen. About $25 per person back then, with food served to the table. Really good stuff. They were famous for cinnamon rolls. The owner said he’d seen many, many women ruin expensive purses hiding those rolls. Man, I miss that place."
20."A woman came in with two of her kids and had a pretty regular meal. You pay when you leave at our place, and she decided to sneak out with her younger daughter before paying, leaving her underage son alone at the table. We caught on pretty quick and sent someone after her who found her in her car in the parking garage, waiting for her son to come as well. She refused to come back in and pay, so we had to keep her son 'hostage' until the police came to handle the situation. What some people will do to their kids, I swear."
21."Obligatory 'not a buffet worker,' just a witness. We were waiting in line for the soft serve machine at a buffet. The woman in front of us got up to the machine and awkwardly jerked the handle around in an attempt to get at the sweet, sweet ice cream within. She was pushing, pulling, twisting, doing literally everything but turning it to the right (which would have dispensed the ice cream). She was really perplexed by this. So she took the next logical step, of course, which was to wrap her lips around the spout, form a seal on it with her mouth, and start trying to suck it right out of the tap. One of the workers saw this and looked on in disgust before he unplugged the machine. On the way out, we saw that he put an 'Out of Order' sign on it, so thankfully they didn't keep serving it after that whole incident."
22."Worked in a restaurant with an all-you-can-eat shrimp bonanza. It was always horrible because the managers sucked and ensured that each new dish would take 10–15 minutes to come out, so people 'got tired and left,' keeping their food costs down. This meant you'd have tables there for two-plus hours with the same bill, and they'd tip you worse, since they were cheap and 'things took too long.'
"Had three guys come in around 3 p.m. and start going to town. Plate after plate of fried shrimp. It was insane. They gorged themselves on biscuits dipped in ranch or blue cheese as they waited for the shrimp. Around 7 p.m., one got up to go to the bathroom. Around 7:20, the ambulance came because he'd had a heart attack in the bathroom."
23."Worked at a buffet in a casino years ago...business wasn't great. Someone had the bright idea to put a two-for-one coupon in the local paper. We noticed a bit of a bump in business, but then one Friday, the whole fucking city came in. These coupons had an expiration date, and it turns out that everyone decided to use it on the very last day of the promotion. Friday night was prime rib night. Any functional piece of equipment capable of heating food was cooking prime rib. Steamer, deep fryer, tilt skillet, wok, every pan, and every square inch of the grill was covered with varying states of cooked or cooking prime rib/ribeye steaks. It was one of the biggest shitshows of my 12-year career working in kitchens."
24."Ranch... Dear God, the ranch. I've seen such horrors that you cannot truly comprehend. Cookies in ranch. Jell-O in ranch. Cups full of ranch being drunk like lemonade. There is no end to the atrocities that have come to this world by the bastard condiment. May God have mercy on us all."
25."I can tell you that what people leave on buffet plates is some of the nastiest shit on the planet. When humans are given the complete freedom of everything being disposable, some primal switch gets flipped in their heads. Everyone is gorging as if they don't know when their next meal is. Samples become full plates. Porcelain plates become disposable plates. Employees are transparent to them. Food just needs to appear when they want it. Plates just need to go away.
"At mealtime, approximately every 15 minutes, I was filling a tall kitchen bag with food waste. During that time, I was continually carrying armfuls of plates back to the station and scraping off the food. When I had a partner, the person scraping the plates would fall behind, so the plate stacks kept getting higher. Before too long, we would run out of space to stack the plates, so we had to start stacking them on the carpet next to us. You. Couldn't. Scrape. The. Plates. Fast. Enough — let alone unload the cart or get rid of the garbage."