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Salad bars and buffet safety

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Some of the other posts have got me thinking...have there been alot of improvements in these over the years?

I'm not necessarily inviting your most grossest stories here....but i remember only a couple of years ago, when the Pondarosa restaurant didnt' offer a new plate to a repeat salad-bar'er, and watching people tap the spoon on their dirty plate made me cringe. (consequently I also once saw an old lady fill her purse with cheese, a memory that remains with me to this day, lol )

I also worked in the "front" restaurant of Wendy's back in the day when they had salad bars....and laughed at some of the stuff I saw....people going up to the bar with the wrappers from their burgers and such...lol. Sadly...what was leftover the night before, made it to the top of the salad bar bowls the next day. But they've ditched that.

I'm not necessarily talking about hovering kids or people eating at the buffet or what not, or places with quick turnover in the food necessarily. In some places, food gets hoovered up so quickly, that it may even be a non-issue.

I want to know if these things have come any way at all? Are the standards being met? People in the food industry, comments welcome :)

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  1. I worked at a very large, extremely busy nature foods place (similar to WF). We routinely had people with food allergies, very specific diets, obsession with organic, you name it coming in. If there was a contest for how long you can tell gross stories about food & the public with repeating any, I suspect I could win. Lets just say I will only eat at one if I am first in line when they open. And the things I have seen have been on the customer end - the kitchen staff was as dedicated & conscientious as can be. But short of custom making each persons plate, there is only so much you can see or prevent from happening. Most people just don't think. Germs are something that comes from other people - not them!

    1. It is a testimate to the durability and fortitude of the human body that we can consume so many carelessly or inappropriately handled foodstuffs.......having worked in a number of venues within the industry it never ceases to amaze how many foodservice employees are unaware of their actions with regards to cross contamination, hand washing practices, lack of attention to wholesomeness of products......etc.
      One can only hope that the individuals in charge (ie kitchen manager, chef, sous) have an established , strong food service ethic, and that they attempt at every opportunity to instill this in their employees......that being said, anyone with a comprimised immune system, the elderly, children.......are , for the most part, playing Russian Roulette when they dive into a food trough, salad bar, buffet.......unless your walking a buffet line fully staffed by servers.....it also never ceases to amaze that some people feel it is their god given mandate to pile their plates to high heaven in order to get their " monies worth" at these all you can eat free for alls.....never intending to finish what they've heaped onto their plates.
      Their are of course exceptions to the above......qaulity restaurants that dilegentlly oversee the buffet/smorgasbord/salad bar from start to finish ,staffed by a knowledgeable, well trained staff, that takes pride in what they do.......far and few between.....

      2 Replies
      1. re: Saddleoflamb

        any examples of restos Saddle? I'm interested mostly in what business owners are doing to address some of the issues with salad bars and buffets. I've been to buffets that have staff assigned to some areas (prime rib, omelet station etc)...but not salad bars.

        I'd like to know which places are doing things well.

        1. re: im_nomad

          Sweet Tomato's (chain) has always seemed fresh and appealing........they have a rapid turnover during peak hours, and the salad bar is its lifesblood....I would avoid large grocery chains at off peak hours...ie after lunch rush etc...as mentioned it would always be prudent to hit a salad bar as soon as it opens up....usually by 10/1030 am...make your salad and put it it an office fridge if eating later in the day. Use portion controlled salad dressings (if available) rather than the plastic bottle filled communal dressings.
          Many health food inspectors in the US are focusing more heavily on protein temps and conditions than ever before...unfortunately they only come around every 6 months+-....look for health food scores of 98 (US) or better....these establishments typically have not had critical hazards points deducted when visited by the inspector(critical points, usually cross contamination, temps, infestations. h2o temps.proper sink setups, test strips).
          I look for salad bars that use metal pans to hold temps better, clean, fesh, wholesome appearance, sneeze guards in place and clean, utensils for each item, visibly attended to by an employee....not an afterthought....as mentioned this is all well and good , but on any given day or time the wrong /inconsiderate patron/typhoid Mary type can throw a monkey wrench into the best maintained facility......impossible to really police without being overly intrusive.

      2. Folks, im_nomad seems interested in hearing about what standards are kept in modern buffets rather than trading anecdotes about disgusting incidents at buffets. Since we'd rather not go down that road either, we're asking you to please keep the discussion focused on the standards and practices and not on the gross stories.

        1. Not that I advocate complete carelessness and disregard, but ... guys ... food all either grows in dirt or it's a dead animal. Every animal but humans eat anything they find right off the ground ... not that I'd WANT to, but at least take it into consideration.

          1. There are times when I do enjoy a wide selection of food. I guess everyone has days when they can't make up their mind what they want. BUT...! I do NOT eat at buffets, but I DO eat at cafeterias. In cafeterias other people's kids (or just plain old "other people") don't get to play in the food. "Nuff said.

            1. Although sometimes inconvenient the sneeze guard seems to help in many ways (except for short people, children). I also know that inspectors who watch these things like to see trays replaced, instead of new food being put on top of old.

              1. Your post about the old lady filling her bag with cheese made me laugh. I used to frequent one of these salad bar/deli places in Manhattan, and often saw a strange old woman who would stand at the bar for about twenty minutes picking the carmelized onions out of some kind of pseudo-Asian dish, and filling her takeway box only with these. It was really, really strange, but really funny in retrospect.

                I am not really a fan of salad bars, or condiment bars, anymore. I have witnessed too many unsupervised children practically playing (or actually playing) with the food or fixin's bar in the last couple of years while their selfish parents ate in peace while their little monster kept him or herself occupied, and I have lost my appetite for it as a result. It's a shame really -- I used to enjoy it. But of late, it seems that every Mom in the supermarket thinks it's just dandy for their little one to help fill the container at the olive bar, usually in an unhygienic way, or, Lord help me, fish a pickle out of the "pickle" barrel, or the donut out of the display case, etc., etc. I don't know if these people are clueless, stupid or what -- but it has become a common scene if you stand there and observe for a while.

                Not to pick on children alone, I recently saw a couple shopping with their parents at a new high-end market that offers bakery breads that can be selected with tissue, and then sliced and bagged by person behind the counter. "Dad", or shall I say, "Typhoid Dad" managed to manhandle at least three loaves of rye bread with his bare hands before he was satisfied that he had found "the one." It made me nauseous. I complained to the store manager because there was absolutely no supervision of this display. I was apparently not alone in reporting these kind of incidents because they have since moved the bread display a lot closer to the slicing station. I just try not to think about it.