The Biggest Etiquette Mistake At Hotel Breakfast Buffets

We see you wrapping those muffins in a napkin, tossing that apple and banana into your backpack, tucking a few oatmeal packets under your complimentary morning newspaper, and snagging one or two mini cereal boxes as you exit the hotel's free breakfast buffet. We are on to you, as you unapologetically enter the elevator in your PJs, clutching paper plates stacked with eggs, bacon, pancakes, and toast. "It's for my husband, who is up in the room," you may tell the couple in the elevator. "He's so lazy."

The hotel housekeeping staff found your stellar collection of yogurts in the mini-fridge, spotted those tiny jam jars and single-serving cream cheese packets neatly stacked on the desk. You've been warned by the hotel manager, with your mother's voice in your head or perhaps your own conscience: "Take an extra hot cocoa packet again and run the risk of being barred as a future guest in that hotel chain."

Okay, that's unlikely, but you just tapped into the number one mistake people make at the hotel breakfast buffet. The truth is, we've all taken more than we need from these early morning cornucopias, thinking "I'm not that hungry now, but I probably will be later." So how much food can we take without risking disapproving glances from fellow guests or hotel staff? What if you need snacks for the many hours you have ahead of you stuck on a tour bus, begging for a pit stop to stretch your legs? What if your blood sugar gets low in line for a rollercoaster or laying out on the beach? What if you need snacks to keep the kids in good spirits? Your mother and God will forgive you for partaking in a granola bar or muffin for the road, but for politeness' sake, you may want to take it easy.

Be considerate of your fellow hotel guests

You can rationalize that the food lingering at your hotel breakfast buffet may go to waste anyway; or that you spent plenty for that hotel room and you are entitled to an extra biscuit or two. And really, who could refuse you that measly cheese danish?

The Points Guy, however, cautions against this thinking, which often encourages food waste. Put a little on your plate, they advise, and if it's tasty, you can go back for more. "If you load four sausages onto your plate, you may either eat all of them, wasting valuable stomach space, or throw them out, which is a waste," the outlet explains.

When presented with unlimited options, our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. A study shared by The New York Times found that, though you may think you're saving a second trip to the hot bar, it's very likely you'll end up throwing away a portion of what you select. And if you load up on a coveted item, you may attract the ire of others when you toss that plate of cold bacon and eggs while they were left with nothing but fruit salad. Think of going up for seconds as the "be kind, rewind" of the hotel industry. Take what you will actually eat, go up for more if you're still hungry, and snag just one or two items for the road, leaving enough for others.

Breakfast buffet leftovers could make you sick

But it's not only out of consideration for your fellow hotel guests and the environment that you should be exercising a little control at the breakfast buffet. The Sydney Morning Herald explains wrapping up food and saving it for later may pose a "health and hygiene issue," depending on the ingredients your selection is made from. What's worse than getting off the bus hungry or having to shell out a little extra for a snack or lunch at that tourist attraction? Spending a day (or more) in your hotel bathroom with food poisoning while your friends and family lounge poolside and dine at that restaurant you scored reservations for ages ago and have been eagerly waiting to visit.

With all that in mind, here are some final hotel breakfast buffet etiquette tips: Respect the line; respect your fellow diners; respect the server. Use the provided utensils, not your hands. Don't waste food or serving ware. Don't linger because someone else might need your table. Take a clean plate every time.

Finally, if there is a tip jar, take it as a sign from the heavens. Here is your opportunity to atone for past breakfast buffet sins.