Halal buffets are restaurants that serve food considered halal by Islamic standards, usually in an all you can eat style. Halal foods are those that follow the specific guidelines of Islam regarding which things are allowed and which are prohibited. In some areas, it can be hard for people who follow these guidelines to find choices that are considered truly halal, especially in restaurants. This lack of choices combined with an increase in demand has prompted more business owners to cater to the needs of the Islamic community, and halal buffets are one example of this.
The word halal literally means "lawful" in Arabic, and it is commonly used to describe foods and other products that are permitted according to Islamic beliefs. Conversely, haram means "forbidden" and is used in reference to foods that are prohibited under Islamic law. Some items that are considered haram are pork products, alcohol, and carnivorous animals. Possibly, the most complicated rule to follow regards the process by which animals are slaughtered for meat. The beliefs of Islam require that animals be slaughtered in the most humane way possible and that they die from blood loss rather than by any other means.
Many of the rules for halal food are very different from how food is commonly prepared and handled in other cultures, especially in Western cultures. This makes finding halal food in those areas a definite challenge for people who strictly adhere to the guidelines, especially in restaurants and buffets. Certain Islamic groups have set up certifications for manufacturers and business owners to ensure that their food is halal so that people do have some reliable outlets for finding those foods. Restaurants, however, often prove to be even more of a challenge, as many of the ingredients in restaurant dishes are not completely disclosed. Halal buffets serve several different dishes in a setting where people serve themselves and are allowed to eat as much as they want after paying one flat price, but in these buffets everything served is considered halal.
In Western culture, ethnic variety is much more common in metropolitan areas, and this principle definitely applies to halal buffets as well. A common place to find them would be in areas where there are other businesses geared towards Islamic culture, such as halal butchers or grocers, although this is not always the case. As more people learn about and become interested in halal foods, more businesses have begun to respond to the increased demand. Halal restaurants of all kinds, including halal buffets, are becoming more and more common and can be found in many different areas.