Buffets, once a staple on the American dining scene, have been declining in recent years. The buffet scene, certainly home to a good deal, is also home to many examples of wildly off base behavior and questionable health habits.
In this piece we'll examine stories various people have had at buffets that stand out to us for their outrageous and otherwise absurd details
"Golden Corral can be incredible for people watching as you get to see some of the most peculiar behavior.
I once watched a guy load a plate with fried chicken and take it over to the chocolate fountain. He proceeded to put the entire plate — not take pieces of chicken off the plate but the entire plate itself — under the chocolate fountain until it was completely coated.
He looked at his creation like a proud father looks at his newborn child, returned to his table, and proceeded to devour the chocolate covered chicken."
"I went to Golden Corral while I was pregnant, and after we’d finished eating, I reached to get a napkin out of the dispenser on the table and a roach came out with the napkin. I immediately wanted to vomit. I called the manager over and told her what happened. She said, 'Yeah, we know. We’re working on it, but we just can’t seem to get rid of the infestation. We even had somebody come spray last night but I guess it didn’t help.' I lost it. I ended up reporting them to the health department after the manager told me she wasn’t sure anything had been cleaned after the pest control company sprayed the night before."
"A rather rotund customer arrived and wedged herself into a booth. Besides being a grade-A pain in the rear to begin with, she had the gall to request the waitstaff bring her food since she didn’t want to get up from the table and I guess to funnel food into her arteries. I was busing tables and watching from afar, so I didn’t get directly involved. What ensued with utter karma for her being a terrible person to the staff and acting like she owned the place.
When she was finished eating, she could not physically get up or get out of her booth doing her being so stuffed, large in general, and wedged in. I was told by her waiter that the look in her eyes when she had to deprecatingly ask for help was priceless. The manager eventually had to call the fire department to come remove the table from the floor to get her out. All the while she continued complaining and was a terrible customer. Didn’t leave a tip either because of 'poor service' or something. I didn’t care too much because it’s a funny memory that gets me through the week to this day."
"A long time ago, my mom and I picked up a friend of hers, and we went to a local Chinese food buffet. This place had a thing where you could get a pound of food for $5 in a takeout container instead of sitting and eating at the restaurant if you want, so that was our plan.
The three of us were browsing around the buffet line with our takeout containers, adding what we wanted to them... and then I noticed my mom's friend doing something unimaginably disgusting.
He was eating a chicken wing. Like, right in front of the buffet line, hiding his face behind his takeout container. And then he took the chicken bone and put it back in the buffet tray.
I walked over to my mom and told her what he was doing, and at first she thought I was joking. So she walked over towards him and now he was standing there eating a slice of watermelon right off the buffet, and then putting the rind back in the tray.
So my mom is like 'What on earth are you doing!?' and he's like 'Don't worry, I do this all the time! They never notice!'
So of course both me and mom are panicking, worried that they're gonna call the cops or something because of this moron. We basically pretended to not know him and continued to fill up our containers the right way.
After a couple minutes, one of the employees walks up to my mom and tells her that they noticed what the guy was doing, and they noticed that we were also uncomfortable about it and didn't intend to blame us. But they warned her that if she doesn't get him to pay for the food in his container and leave immediately, they'll be calling the police.
So of course my mom tells him that we need to go. Now. And he just brushes it off like 'I don't care. They're not gonna do anything!'
Well, me and mom walked up to the front, paid for our containers, apologized, and walked out and left him in there. A minute later, you can see and hear him shouting with the staff. He throws his container on the ground and food splatters everywhere. He storms out, shouting insults as he leaves, and of course gives them a 'I'm never coming back,' to which they reply, 'You're not allowed in here no more! We'll call the cops!'
So we're standing out by the car, waiting for him. Of course, we yell at him for being a dumpster human. We get in the car and the next thing you know, this audacious waste of skin starts pulling chicken wings and Chinese donuts out of his pockets and eating them.
We dropped him off at home and never spoke to him again."
"Not an employee or a customer, but we had a Chinese buffet close for a health code violation, which involved an employee cutting veggies while taking a number two. To this day I still wonder if that means the guy brought a bucket into the kitchen or veggies into the unhygienic bathroom, and I honestly don't know which is worse."
"Not a worker, sorry, but the Golden Corral in the city where I went to college got shut down thanks to an employee.
He found it odd that they made a busboy sign a non-disclosure agreement to work there until he found out it was because they were breaking just about every health and safety rule.
They were serving meat that had gone green, they would leave food out overnight, the freezer once broke down for three days, and they kept serving from it despite it being in the danger zone. He wore a hidden camera and gave the footage to the news. It made me SO glad I never ate there."
"A family friend was once at a Golden Corral and took his young son to the men’s room. When he was in there, he heard two people making love in one of the stalls. He took his son back to the table and then went back to the bathroom to confront the two people for being so inappropriate at a family restaurant.
Well, out walks two men — the restaurant manager and one of his employees. He filed a complaint with corporate but I don’t know how things ended."
"At one point, I worked for a pizza place that used to have a day buffet that I would make pizzas for.
One time, two huge dudes came right when we were opening the buffet. The manager on duty dropped the first two pizzas down on the buffet, turned to grab the next two, turned back, and both pizzas were gone. A few minutes later, both dudes walked back up and each took an entire pizza again and walked back to continue eating.
They proceeded to do this over and over, grabbing an entire pizza each for themselves for the entire three hours we were offering the buffet."
"So I was going to a Golden Corral, right? I noticed some guy was tailing me on his worn-out bike roughly 15 minutes before I got there, and even parked next to me. I was planning to eat alone, but this guy looked homeless, at least that's what I thought.
I thought to myself, what could go wrong giving him some food? So I asked if he wanted some food. Now, I'm not strong, but I'm not fat either. This guy straight up pulls a blade on me, and said 'GIVE ME YOUR MONEY NOW' I thought for a moment, worst-case scenario, this guy kills me if I do anything else. Best-case scenario, I BOLT OUT of there and into the Golden Corral.
I chose second Option. I BOLTED IT, RUNNING into the Golden Corral, saying, 'CALL THE POLICE!'
The guy came in, only to be hit on the head by a guy, who meant to punch ME for spilling his drink on him, cause he was about to leave. THANK. GOD."
"I served at Golden Corral for six months, and it was a God-awful place. You'd think it would be easy because you don't take orders, right? Wrong. Cleaning up the messes, busing tables, getting drinks and cleaning plates, singing for birthdays plus side work definitely kept you busy. Most of the customers weren't the greatest — they made an appalling mess, let their kids run wild, didn't tip (we were paid $2.13/hr and needed tips) no matter how much you bent over backward for them. I saw so many unaccompanied kids reaching into the buffet serving dishes; I saw one kid dip his marshmallow into the chocolate fountain, lick the chocolate off, and put the same marshmallow back in over and over. The customers weren't normally very easy to deal with; rudeness was the norm there...for example people got into a physical fight over a table on Easter Sunday.
The managers were pricks. They abused everyone, both seemed to hate women, and took advantage of the fact that a lot of the staff was foreign. When we got a negative mystery shop report, we all were gathered into a meeting to be screamed at. When the next shop report was excellent, nothing at all was said, the report was just posted to the bulletin board. My one boss told me to be sure to report all my tips to the IRS, since he was 'sure I'd be a waitress all my life' he wanted to 'make sure I'd get something from social security when I was old.' The managers carried the tea bags in their pockets — if your customer wanted a cup of tea, you had to track a boss down, and they would snarlingly, begrudgingly hand one over. Servers were also expected to catch and confront people stealing from the buffet (putting leftovers in their bag for example).
We weren't allowed to eat. Most cheap restaurants will give you a meal per shift, but not Golden Corral. It was hard when you saw how much was wasted to not think you deserved a piece of bread or broken cookie maybe. To eat you had to clock out, get in line, pay half price, get your plate, and then sit down. After five minutes a manager would almost always come over and say 'we're busy, break's over,' so you had to get back to work and throw your food away. I'm hypoglycemic so my solution was to eat right before work and carry a granola bar in my pocket. I could eat the bar and get away with it in the women's bathroom because the managers were both men.
One time, I was so stressed out and trying to scarf down my bar while in the next stall, a very large woman took a very large and smelly dump. I realized that it was one of the worst moments in my life. I quit shortly thereafter, got a much better job, and called up Golden Corral's corporate office to tell them everything."
"We had a Chinese buffet in town when I was in college. This was the Rockies, there were very few Asian people here, and very few people of any ethnic background here. I tell you this to preface the fact that a Chinese buffet is NEVER a good idea, but when you're low on options sometimes you have to make do.
I had a good friend on the football team. We were freshman, he was Offensive Line so his whole job is to be a fat guy. I go out with a different friend, we get high as kites one fateful Saturday night, my phone dings with a text. It's my football friend 'Hey man, whole team going to Chinese buffet, come through.' They had just finished their spring practices, they really tire those boys out to see who's going to play what position come fall, and had decided to buy everybody an all-you-can-eat plate at the buffet.
I walk through the doors back in time to the 1980s. Arrayed before me is 60 some football players, the smell in the air is indescribable. There were clean guys, there were guys fresh off the field, there was cologne and sweat and sweet and sour sauce in equal measure. The smell still haunts me to this day. My other stoned friend and I say hey to our football buddy, place an order with the waiter, and sit down away from the football team. The sound of them eating actually drowned out the music, we didn't know any was playing until we got over to the other side of the building.
Hundreds of plates stacked these tables, we didn't even order from the buffet because we saw we weren't getting anything. As soon as the pans of orange chicken went down, like vultures the athletes descended. The entire thing was honestly gross in its own way.
The aftermath of that day was where it really went downhill though. I didn't eat more than half the orange chicken and fried rice I had ordered, it was just nasty. I pooped my brains out at the movie theater after dinner. Little did we know, back at campus, something worse was happening.
Every stall was stocked, 5 stalls to a floor, 3 floors for freshman men. They were in rotation, guys were moving to the library, to the campus center, the athletics center. The entire freshman living hall was choked with the smell. Somebody took a massive dump in the urinal. It was the fecalpocalypse. Janitors were opening windows to vent the toxic air. All the flushing actually broke two of the toilets. Thankfully no one was hospitalized.
They had to cancel lifting for two days, everyone was too dehydrated and exhausted. My football buddy found out that combined, the O-line lost something like 60 pounds over those three days of dumping and hydrating. The football coaching staff officially blacklisted the Chinese buffet. The intestinal purging they had caused set them back athletics wise many days, an unforgivable sin to a coaching staff. I just remember those hard days, I put Vicks under my nose so I can could get out of the building at the peak of the crisis. Did all my personal business in the engineering lab across campus.
The smell and the cacophony still haunts my memory. The acoustics of the stall doors only heightening the terror."
"I’ll never forget when I was a teenager and working the buffet line at a Ponderosa Steakhouse, this morbidly obese child (probably like 8 years old) had a plate with a MOUNTAIN of food. Like some of literally almost everything from the buffet. Mashed potatoes, pizza, chicken wings, jello, pudding, like EVERYTHING piled on top of each other. So I go up to him because it was bizarre and was like, 'Hey, you know you can use a second plate?' He said, 'I’m only allowed to have one plate.'
So his parents were trying to restrict his diet, and he just found a loophole. But if you have a kid with this sort of issue, maybe don’t go to a buffet."
"I was at a Golden Corral, looking for a place to sit, when my ICU nurse ex-wife spotted an obese man eating at a booth. She whispered to me, 'That man is having a heart attack.' He looked completely fine to me, laughing with his family and pushing whole dinner rolls into his mouth with his sausage fingers.
Ten minutes later, he was quite unwell. My ex-wife sprung into action, had a family member called 911, and provided care until EMS arrived. She was right. I asked her the same question. She said that he was pale, sweating, pulling at the neck of his shirt, and that she just knew something was up."
"My family was at Country Buffet, and at this point, they were doing a special on some kind of roast. The ad said that it was 'always fresh and ready' or something like that, the implication being it would always be up. Well, it was a Friday night, and obviously everyone wanted this pork roast, and some guy waiting in line was extremely and visibly unhappy that they ran out for a few minutes. He was maybe 5 feet 6 inches, 50 years old, and he just started SCREAMING at this poor kid manning the carving station. The kid was obviously Asian, and this old guy is just obliterating him for no reason, calling him every name in the book.
'You guys advertised that the roast would always be up and ready to eat! I want my food you [ethnic slur]! Where's your manager? I want to tell him he needs to fire this complete idiot.'
So my dad who is 6 foot, and probably 250 lbs stood up (we were sitting right next to the meat carving station) and just loomed over this dude. He wouldn't ever hurt a fly, but he sure looked like he would. So he stood up with this big sense of authority, and snapped back at him.
'Hey, you need to calm down! You're in public'
'What are you gonna do? You gonna fight me!?'
'No. I'm not going to fight you. You're gonna sit down and eat your food'
After a few minutes of this back and forth, the manager came out and threw the dude out, and everyone went back to eating."
"I was at a Chinese buffet with a Hot Pot option that you had to pay extra for. There was a separate section with the stuff for that which was raw. This guy loaded up his plate with all this raw stuff and was eating it, including dangerous raw seafood like shrimp. I think he may have been slightly intellectually disabled.
The staff had to come over and inform him that he was eating the wrong items and tried to explain it to him. He got really embarrassed and said that he did not understand how it worked. Between the staff with their limited English and this poor guy who was not capable of really understanding what he had done wrong, it was one of those awkward moments in a life that you cannot forget no matter how much you try."
"I used to work at a Chinese buffet at a small town in Vermont, so we had a lot of regulars. Big restaurant, seated about 100. It was my first job as a waitress. I have so many...
We used to give hot tea for free, upon request. Shout out to my dude that figured out our iced tea is just our hot tea chilled, so he could save $1.89. I actually respected that one. Shout out to that one large family that came in twice a week for 4 years straight and stayed for nearly 3 hours each time. Shout out to the powdered donuts never being full because of the vultures that would grab them while I still had the hot tray in my hand. Oh, and the salad bar ALWAYS being full. People somehow sneezing on the food, totally missing the sneeze guard.
My all time favorite. I had a couple come in once and only once. Very large woman, like had to pull up a second chair large and her very thin boyfriend. They each had three average sized plates of food, then moved on to the ice cream machine. Buffets are weird because you never know quite when to drop the check. I'm an experienced server now but I don't think I would have handled it any differently. I dropped the check, 'whenever you're ready' spiel. They paid, smiled, left me a $5 tip and left. They were hanging in the parking lot for a while and my manager called and asked me about 'the complaint'. He knew who they were. Every time they came in, EVERY TIME, they tried to complain about something for free food. That's why they were waiting in the parking lot - so they could come in and claim their voucher for a free meal. They even planted a hair once! He told them he didn't need their business anymore because he loses money on them because of how much they eat! My boss was really savage like that, I'm not even exaggerating. Fiercely protective of us all too. Also, he had already given them one or two 'free meals next time' and was DONE.
Food was amazing and surprisingly sanitary and fresh. It's the people that were gross and made me almost lose faith in humanity by 20 years old. After closing, I'd usually eat real Chinese food in the back with the cooks so overall awesome place to work."