A lot of stuff goes down at all-you-can-eat food establishments. From food overloads to nasty customers, these workers see it all. In this piece, buffet style workers share the craziest thing they've seen on the job. Some stories may turn away heads forever. Keep in mind, content is edited for clarity.
"Sadly, it was me. Stickers had this deal for all-you-can-eat riblets. Oh my god they were amazing. After my third plate, the waitress started bringing plates with double servings on them (she asked first, which was nice). She thought it was hilarious. I was 17, lean, 160 pounds, and I was eating like a family of four.
I was on my seventh plate when all at once, I just stopped. I didn't barf, I didn't feel sick, I didn't even know what was going on. My mind just grinded to a halt apparently. I remember coming to when my dad burst laughing. Apparently, I had been sitting there for several minutes, not moving, staring at the same spot on the wall, one riblet in my hand, another in my mouth. My father thought it was the funniest thing. I was eating, no sign of slowing down and BAM I hit some sort of mental wall. I never got sick from that night. I felt full afterwards, which the staff said I ate about 3 and a half pounds of riblets, so I'm so glad I was full. I don't know how I ate so much. I don't know what happened to me when I 'hit that mental wall', but it's a story my father won't let me forget."
"I've cooked in a few restaurants. One was pizza and we had a lunch buffet. There was one family of four that would come in and probably eat two pizzas each. The dad would always request that we make a supreme with double cheese for the buffet and he would go grab the whole pan and take it to his table. They were smelly and messy. They would wreck the bathroom and steal the soap (allegedly).
I worked at a semi-fine dining spot in college and we did a rotating international buffet on Fridays. There was a couple of music students that would come eat every Friday. One day they brought this Jordanian jazz student who could have been Borat's runt twin. It was fajita day and the first fajita experience for the 5'5" 130-ish pound kid. This guy made a freaking foot tall Scooby-Doo salad and ate the whole thing with a basket of rolls before crushing about a half pint each of rice and refried beans and probably a pound+ each of chicken and beef made into hefty fajitas with all the trim. He looked 6 months pregnant when he left."
"I used to work at a detention center for felony offender youths. When they were nearing release, we would take them on outings if they earned it, to kinda help them reintegrate into normal social situations. They always wanted to eat, because all they did was complain and moan about the food at the center (which was actually wonderful, I'm sure once most of them hit the adult jail and saw real jail food, they realized how good they had it) so we would take them to buffet places, so they could eat as much as they wanted without it bankrupting our activity fund. Anyway, one Friday night we took a group of 5 or 6 kids to Cici's pizza because it was cheap and hey, pizza.
The kids were thrilled. This one prick (he really was a dirtbag kid who turned into a dirtbag adult) kept going up for more long after the other kids had destroyed the buffet. I mean, these kids could eat, and this one kid is just single-handedly eating as much as the other five put together. I warned him to chill out, as his body wasn't used to this amount of food, plus we were taking them to the park to play basketball after.
He told me to mind my own business in a rather colorful way. The other kids were like, 'Naw Miss Violet's, let him go, he will pay for it later.'
Sure enough, he was laying in the back of the van wailing away about a mile out from Cici's, insisting he was going to die and needed medical attention. I told him no way, I'm not ruining everyone's night out because you can't listen, suck it up. He threw up a God awful mixture of Dr. Pepper and pizza in the van and proceeded to puke repeatedly at the park in between his wails of death.
We made him clean out the van with some towels and bleach water when we got back, which he complained endlessly about and then wrote a grievance complaining that I let him eat too much, then refused medical treatment. I remember the nurse asked him if he was 'bloated and irritable' and it was effing hilarious. Good old PMS Kyle. He's like 27 now and still a prick."
"I worked at a Ponderosa Steakhouse for over four years. We used to have a family that would come in on Fridays (seafood buffet) and the dad would take an entire pan of baked fish (10-12 12oz pieces). The also used to take the soup bowls, fill one each to the brim with different ice cream toppings (sprinkles, cookie crumbles, peanuts, etc) and make their own little dessert buffet at the tables. They would only ever take a few spoonfuls of each, and then let the baby play with the rest and throw everything on the floor. They used to change the baby's diaper on the table too (there's changing tables in both bathrooms).
We also had a lady we called Mimi (she looked like the hag from the Drew Carey Show) who would eat plateful after plateful of anything and everything. She would then go into the bathroom and puke all over the place and demand a refund. She would no joke try to pull this 2-4 times a month. She would also ask every single employee for to-go boxes, even the dish boys and stuff."
"Years ago, I worked at an all-you-can-eat country buffet in South Carolina. I was a busboy.
One day, I went to a table. It was a mess, as per usual. It looked to be a large family/group of families of around 12 people or so. The thing that stuck it in my memory is that whenever they had finished with what they were going to eat, they scraped their plates and used them again.
They scrape their plates... onto the floor next to their chairs. So next to each chair, there was a 6-inch to 18-inch pile of chicken bones, crab legs, mashed potatoes, remnants of backed potatoes, etc. Just disgusting."
"Not an employee, but a customer.
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. Then, I noticed my mom's friend doing something so disgusting.
He was eating a chicken wing. Like, right in front of the buffet line, hiding his face behind his takeout container. 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. At first, she thought I was joking. 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.
My mom is like, 'What are you doing?!'
He's like, 'Don't worry, I do this all the time! They never notice!'
So, of course both, my mom and I are panicking, worried that they're gonna call the cops or something because of this doofus. 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. They noticed that we were also uncomfortable about it and didn't intend to blame us. However, 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, mom tells him that we need to go. Now. He just brushes it off like 'I don't care. They're not gonna do anything!'
Well, my mom and I 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 piece of work. We get in the car and the next thing you know, this prick 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 a restaurant worker, but I have laid witness to someone consuming way too much food at a buffet.
It was at a Cici's Pizza. Now if you're unfamiliar with the concept of Cici's. It's an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet ranging from normal pepperoni to glorious Mac and Cheese pizza.
One day, my best friend, his sister, and I get a hankering for the ole Cici's, so we head down to our local joint. The place is filled with little kids celebrating the end of a soccer season it looks like. We think nothing of it and plow through the buffet grabbing our favorite pizzas.
We sit down and I begin to gorge my face with that delicious Mac and Cheese pizza. When suddenly, I hear a banshee like scream of 'SLOW DOWN!' from the back of me.
I look up from my plate to the bewilderment of both my best friend and his sister. They have stopped eating. I slowly turn around, making sure to not focus on one subject. That's when I see it.
This enormous, Honey Boo Boo's mom looking woman, towering over this kid. The kid has not individual slices on his plates. Yes, plates. But individual pizzas. And judging by the amount of empty plates he must have eaten three whole pizzas and working on his fourth.
'YOU'RE GONNA GET SICK! STOP!' The woman yells. The kid is deaf to her cries.
'STOP NOW!' She screams again.
'NO!' The kid finally barks back in between slices.
Not even three seconds after he yelled. It happened.
The kid barfs. Barf is putting it lightly. There's not a word that I'm familiar with to describe the volume and the speed in which pizza is flying out of the kid's mouth on to the table in front of him.
Time freezes. Everyone in that Cici's restaurant is suspended in that one moment watching this kid hurl a viscera of cheese, sauce, and dough.
Finally, it ends. The woman snatches up her son and they just leave. No need to inform the staff. Everyone had seen what just transpired, mop buckets and rags were already prepared.
Me? I just went back to my Mac and Cheese pizza. Trying to do my best to push what I saw out of my memory. Obviously, it failed."
"Oh boy, I used to work as a cook for a Hometown Buffet when it first opened in my area. The one I worked at had decent food and I'd eat anything, but I saw the quality drop hard when a few of the good managers left. Eventually, we noticed a smell coming from one of the walk in meat coolers where cases of frozen meat are moved to defrost. Turns out, there's a drain tray that runs along under the shelf along the wall to catch any dripping melting meat juices. Who knew?
They were full to the brim with rotting meat fluid. The poor guy that was tasked with dumping it had somehow gotten them out of the floor without spilling. As he was bringing them outside, a guy came rushing in from the other way and they collided, covering them both in pink, viscose meat slime. The whole prep table was covered and everyone in back was gagging and retching. The boss came back, told us to start cleaning, and that's when I decided what was and wasn't worth doing for $6.50 an hour. Half a dozen guys quit on the spot."
"I saw a very large man have a moral dilemma at the buffet line.
To preface this, lets talk about belts, suspenders, and body shape. Belts work on the assumption that you have defined hips to keep them up. When you are a large round circle of a man, belts are a poor choice. Suspenders are the correct one as they go over one's shoulders despite their round shape.
I'm at my table when the man goes to the buffet line. It's 9:00 am on a weekday, we have all made bad decisions to get to this point - don't judge. He loads two plates to the brim with everything smothered in gravy. As he is moving down the line with a full plate in both hands, wondering how he can maximize food intake and minimize trips, it happens.
His pants, formerly secured with a belt, slide down to his ankles. All the way down. He is now standing in a restaurant in his tidy whiteys. He is a man of culture, clearly, because he is wearing briefs. They were clean (hooray?). There was enough material to make a sail for a boat, but I digress.
He is standing there for a few seconds when the true horror dawns upon him– he has to put down his food in order to pull up his pants. He hesitates, weighing his options of doing the shame shuffle back to his table through an occupied restaurant with his pants down or put down his food and pull up his pants. To be fair, there was no good place to set two plates of food that were stacked to 300% capacity so it was no easy task. He decides to set the food down and pick up his pants.
The rest of the meal was uneventful despite his six return trips."
"I work at one of them mid-western Pizza buffets. The kind that makes you feel like a cowboy in Italy.
We have a co-worker who is the antagonist to keeping our buffet stocked. He is about 6'4", 400+ lbs and he works the morning shift, getting off about 1:00-1:30. He sits down in the same prime time booth after every shift and eats pizza, chicken, potatoes, you name it. Everything. He knows when the rushes hit too, so as soon as we put out fresh product for an incoming group, he will get up and snag a pizza and a half worth of slices and go back to sit down. He'll clear a whole pizza and give me the tray and say, 'Hey, you guys are out of this pizza.'
To which I always think, 'Only because of you prick!'
Every day, he is the video game villain that constantly eats my pizza as I try to keep a fully stocked buffet at all times."
"I work at a Casino buffet and we have three seafood nights a week, in which we do unlimited crab leg clusters. One magical Friday, I watched a man who couldn't have been taller that 5'5" and more than 120 lbs eat eleven plates of clusters, with each plate having six clusters.
Now, this isn't too absurd, as crab isn't exactly filling, especially with all the work you have to put in to eat it. However, this man had also loaded down a plate with a massive salad with about every topping we had (14 total), had a plate with three New York Strip steaks and mashed potatoes drowned in gravy, AND three slices of pie.
I'm a hefty guy and I couldn't even eat that much! Our entire staff really thought he wasn't going to make it, but he powered through and then went about his merry way."
"I’ll never forget when I was a teenager and working the buffet line at a Ponderosa Steakhouse. This morbidly obese child (probably like 8ish) had a plate with a MOUNTAIN of food. Like literally almost everything from the buffet. Mashed potatoes, pizza, chicken wings, jello, pudding, like EVERYTHING piled on top of each other. I go up to him because it was bizarre and I’m like, 'Hey, you know you can use a second plate?'
He said, 'I’m only allowed to have one plate.'
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?"
"A woman came in with two of her kids and had a pretty regular meal. You pay when you leave at our place and she decided to sneak out with her younger daughter before paying, leaving her underage son alone at the table. We caught on pretty quick and sent someone after her, who found her in her car in the parking garage, waiting for her son to come as well.
She refused to come back in and pay, so we had to keep her son 'hostage' until the police came to handle the situation. What some people will do to their kids, I swear.
We also found out from her son that she stole one of the managers' keycards and they would regularly come into the hotel and use the card to go swimming in the top floor pool. Smart, I'll give her that, but still."
"My parents owned an all-you-can-eat buffet, and I was there every day of my life from 4-14. My favorite horror story is when a couple came in to eat (obviously). They loved the crab legs and every time my mom put some out, they took it ALL. Also, just a reminder, crab legs are expensive! Forget the other customers, they just took it and ate it all.
So, they’re there for maybe two hours now and it’s getting dark. They’ve eaten through at least a week’s stock of crab legs and my mom finally decides it’s enough. She stops putting it out in the buffet and brings individual plates to the customers who wanted it, but couldn’t get any due to this couple.
Understandably, the couple is angry. They literally flipped the chairs at their table, flipped their plates, bowls, cups, etc. They also completely trashed their area. Food was all over the floor, table, chairs. Sticky soda was dripping into the carpet. They left in a hurry, but someone caught their license plate. We called the cops and I think they said they charged them with something? I can’t remember the aftermath details clearly, because I was probably 8 or 9 years old (I'm 20 now). I just remember looking at the mess and feeling really angry that my sister and I had to clean it up with our mom. It was a family run business, so we didn’t have much help.
Anyways, that’s my horror story. The end."
"Former 'New City Buffet' worker here. We got our fair share, but the two that really stand out are Rib Guy and Bulimia Woman.
Rib Guy came in regularly when we swapped our items to our dinner menu (4:00 pm). He ate nothing but ribs until we closed at 9:00 pm. He never overstayed our hours, but it was a rare night when he didn't eat at least 25 ribs and nothing else...and 25 was his minimum; one time I saw him eat 40. He never had anything else, not even a drink. This was every Tuesday and Thursday with only one absence over 1 1/2 years.
Bulimia Woman was a petite Asian woman, probably in her 40s, who came in every Sunday and ate anything and everything. Salad, bread, ham, pizza, cheesecake, ice cream...anything we put out, she'd have at least one serving. She piled plates beyond what we'd thought were the max capacity and usually had 8-10 plates. However, she would also have to make at least 3 trips to the restroom every visit. After we started noticing her as a regular, we sent one of our waitresses to follow her and she verified that this woman was indeed purging in the restrooms. Rib guy was a funnier customer, but we were just saddened by Bulimia Woman. Not enough to intervene, which I really regret now that I'm older.
I also have another story. Our buffet was somehow the only place that had power during the 2003 blackout. Well, the only restaurant anyway. So we'd prepared for a typical slow (Tuesday I want to say) night, with minimal staff, minimal food (but plenty of ribs, of course). Well, the lights started flickering, and our dish machine went down, but we had no idea what was going on.
Then, the people started flowing in.
It started slowly, just a few people who'd seen our lights were still on. We heard the rumors of a massive outage and the first few customers started making phone calls.
Within the hour, it was pandemonium. Line out the door and around the corner. One guy in the dish room washing every dish by hand. Our newly-minted shift manager taking breaks to cry in the vegetable cooler. Rib Guy leaving early because all the ribs were devoured. Eight pans of pizza because we could just use the frozen ones and pop them in the oven. One guy carving our dwindling ham with one hand and pulling whatever food came up out of the holding unit with the other. All the little tasks like wiping the counters and sneeze guards completely forgotten. Complaints raining down on us like dollar bills at a gentlemen's club next to an NFL Training facility because not one customer thought, 'maybe because there are hundreds of us here, we should be patient and understanding.'
I was on the salad station and 25% of my efforts went just toward making sure the ranch dressing was filled. I ran out of prepped vegetables, so half my bar became baby carrots and lettuce whilst I madly prepped the easy stuff as fast as I could.
Two people quit that night once we closed. Not one employee or manager showed up to save us. We finally chased the last customers out at 10:30. Clean-up time went from a typical one hour to 3 1/2. I ended up helping our lone dish guy out; I'm pretty sure he named his first son after me."
"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 stuff like shrimp. I think he may have been slightly intellectually disabled. The Chinese staff had to come over and inform him that he was eating the wrong things and try to explain it to him. He got really embarrassed and said that he did not understand how it worked.
Between the Chinese 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."
"My first job was at a Cici's Pizza and every Sunday without fail, a morbidly obese man would walk in the second we opened, cozy up in a booth with a laptop, and eat about two pizzas worth of slices every hour until we closed, stopping only to destroy our restroom a couple of times during his stay. He honestly made me feel sick with how much he could put down."