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For the furniture of the same name, see Sideboard.

A buffet is a system of serving meals in which food is placed in a public area where the diners generally serve themselves. It is a popular method for feeding a large number of people with minimal staff. Buffets are offered at various places including hotels and many social events. Sideboards are also known as buffets as they may be used to offer the dishes of a buffet meal to guests.


One form of buffet is to have a table filled with plates containing fixed portions of food; customers select plates containing whatever food items they want as they walk along. This form is most commonly seen in cafeterias. A variation occurs in a Dim sum house, where the patrons make their selections from a wheeled trolley containing the plates of food that circulates through the restaurant. Another derivative of this type of buffet occurs where patrons choose food from a buffet style layout and then pay based on what was chosen.

Another form, known as the all-you-can-eat buffet, is more free-form: customers pay a fixed fee and can then help themselves to as much food as they wish to eat in a single meal. This form is found often in restaurants, especially in hotels.

A third type of buffet commonly offered in delicatessens and supermarkets is a salad bar, in which customers help themselves to lettuce and other salad ingredients, then pay by weight.

A fourth type of buffet is associated with a celebration of some sort.

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