Buffet style self-service

Food at self-serve buffets must be safe to eat. Business operators can make sure food is safe through proper planning, observing food safety controls and constant supervision.

The risks

Open service food can easily be contaminated. For example:

  • when customers self-serving food the business loses control of kitchen to table food safety
  • it is easier for customers to accidentally or deliberately tamper with food
  • uncovered or unprotected food can easily be contaminated by air, insects or physical matter
  • indirect contamination of uncovered or unpackaged food through patrons coughing, sneezing or even talking, as physical barriers (sneeze guards) are not always effective
  • it is more difficult to maintain buffet service food at 5 degrees celsius or below or at 60 degrees celsius or above.

Recommended control measures for the buffet

Supervise and monitor

  • Advise patrons of required food safety procedures with clearly visible, easy-to-understand signage. Use appropriate symbols whenever possible.
  • Recommend that when children are serving themselves food, they be accompanied by an adult.
  • Recommend patrons use a clean plate each time they return to the buffet.
  • Closely supervise the food display. Video surveillance is recommended.
  • Advise patrons when they are doing the wrong thing
  • Remove any food or utensils that you notice have become contaminated.

Manage time and temperature control

Keep hot food at 60 degrees celsius or above and cold food at 5 degrees celsius or below.

  • Check the temperature of food on display regularly with a clean and sanitised thermometer.
  • Any potentially hazardous food stored at room temperature must be monitored using the 2 hour / 4 hour rule.

Food display and utensils

  • Stack plates, cups and glasses so they are protected from contamination and wrap or store cutlery vertically with the handle up.
  • Use lids or covers on each food item where possible.
  • Use sneeze guards over the buffet area
  • It is advisable not to display a food dish on the buffet for more than one hour.
  • Limit the quantity of each food item displayed.
  • Never top-up displayed food dishes but replace them with fresh food.
  • Never reuse previously displayed food.
  • Provide separate serving utensils for each displayed food item.
  • Ensure that the handles of serving utensils do not touch the food.
  • Customers should be encouraged to use clean plates when they revisit the buffet