A buffet is defined by Farlex as a system of serving meals in which food is placed in a public area where the diners generally serve themselves. In the early era, buffet system has been regarded as a display of wealth because basically, it is said that while the possession of gold and silver has been a measure of solvency of a regime, the display of it, in the form of plates and vessels, is more a political act and a gesture of conspicuous consumption.
Nowadays, buffet has become a common and practical system of serving food to guests of an event. It is deemed practical and generous at the same as it signifies that the guests are not deprived to take delight on the foods served for them. But in restaurants and other food bars which use this system of serving food, it is not that the same, because obviously the meals are paid and limited according to the package paid for.
Buffet style meals are served in different ways. There are some which are single pass only, but most buffets allow a guest to first take small samples of unfamiliar foods, and then to return for more servings. Restaurants and other food places often post the rules and charges near the buffet serving tables in commercial eating establishments in order to avoid misunderstandings between the customers and the management.
The popular form of buffet is that which have a table filled with plates containing fixed portions of food. From there, customers select plates containing whichever dishes they want as they walk along. This is the type of system or buffet form that is most commonly seen in cafeterias. Similar to this type of buffet is where patrons pick out food from a buffet style layout and then pay based on what was chosen. There are restaurants which sometimes base the payment on the weight of the food, or use color-coded plates in determining the charges for the food.
A dim sum house caters a different style in where seated diners make their selections from wheeled carts which contain different plates of food which the staff roams through the restaurant. A conveyor belt sushi restaurant is the type in where seated customers select dishes from a continuously-moving conveyor belt carrying a variety of foods. A Brazilian-style rodízio buffet on the other hand features roving waiters serving churrascaria barbecued meats from large skewers to the seated diners’ plates.
A more free-form of buffet style is called “all-you-can-eat” in where customers pay a fixed fee and then helps themselves to as much food as they wish to eat in a single meal. This is the form which is often found in restaurants, especially in hotels.
Another form of buffet meal style is the open buffets which are often linked with a celebration of some sort such as art show openings at galleries and museums. In these cases, there may be no explicit charge or the cost for the invited guests as it may be included in an admission fee to the entire event.
Steamboat Buffet is another type of buffet meal system which serves raw ingredients in a table with a smoldering hot metal pot of stock in the center of it, and the diners will cook it by themselves according to their choice of ingredients and condiments. Ingredients such as meats, seafood and vegetables are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table while the hot pot is kept simmering.