How the Sneeze Guard Changed Buffet Tables Forever

If you've ever eaten at a serve-yourself buffet, you're probably glad to see a transparent sneeze guard between other people's faces and your food. Surprisingly, the sneeze guard isn't all that old. While smorgasbord restaurants became popular in America in the late 1930s, the sneeze guard was patented in 1959! It was the invention of restauranteur Johnny Garneau.

“Being the germaphobe that he was, he couldn’t stand people going down the Smorgasbords smelling things and having their noses too close to the food,” Barbara Kelley, one of five of Garneau’s children says. “He said to his engineers, ‘We have to devise something—I don’t want these people sneezing on the food.”

It's a comforting thought to know that the guy who owns the restaurant in which you are eating is a germaphobe. But while the sneeze guard was Garneau's most famous innovation, it wasn't his only one. On one of his restaurants, he delivered drinks to patrons at the other end of the bar by model train! Read about Garneau and how he developed the sneeze guard at Smithsonian's Food and Think blog. 

(Image courtesy of Barbara Garneau Kelley)

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Now if they invent a way to get the food on your plate w/o having to use a utensil that someone else has touched, I'd be happier. Maybe health department could require patron who use buffets and salad bars to wear disposable gloves while handling the utensils. I'd pay an extra $1 a meal to have such a bit of sanitary protection.
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