A Sweet Tomatoes restaurant that was temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic is seen on the day that Garden Fresh Restaurants announced it will not reopen its 97 Sweet Tomatoes and Souplantation locations across the United States.

Now That Buffets Are Open, What Are They Doing To Hold Us Secure From COVID-19?

When COVID-19 shut the world down in March 2020, none of us may envision a post-pandemic period and we didn’t fairly know if pre-pandemic options like self-serve buffets would turn out to be out of date. Greater than a yr later, the world is slowly reopening, variants be damned (sadly, Nevada is now seeing the best charge of latest COVID-19 circumstances in the USA). Eating places enable full capability. Individuals have shed their masks. Cruises are crusing, albeit with restrictions. And as Patton Oswalt predicted to Conan O’Brien, self-serve buffets have returned to their glory — although they give the impression of being barely completely different.

Grand all-you-can-stuff-on-your-plate buffets have at all times been equated with Las Vegas, and final March, as many as 60 Vegas buffets quickly closed. A handful reopened final summer time solely to quickly shutter once more. (Station Casinos stated it’s completely closing its buffets.) In June 2020, The Buffet at Wynn turned the primary cas-ino buffet to reopen on the Strip, however it closed once more in September. However on July 1, 2021, it joined seven different cas-ino buffets — Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, Backyard Buffet at South Level Resort cas-ino and Spa, Depraved Spoon at Cosmopolitan, Circus Buffet at Circus Circus, MGM Grand Buffet, The Buffet at Bellagio and The Buffet at Excalibur — in reemerging after an extended slumber.

“I’m excited to open,” Jason Duarte, The Buffet at Wynn’s government chef, advised HuffPost. He defined the buffet now has a 60-40 self-service ratio (60% self-serve and 40% particular person plates).

“In the course of the pandemic, we modified our whole mannequin to do all the pieces on particular person plates. We had the servers carry the meals choices to the friends … I believe [individual plates] appears to be like nicer and plus it offers our friends extra choices,” he stated. However now friends will have the ability to serve themselves all the pieces from Jonah crab claws to 5 forms of sushi to wedge salads to a made-fresh-to-order taco station, and an add-on of “countless pours” of alcohol.

“There’s most likely a distinction between taking 50 items of bacon versus asking somebody to place 50 items of bacon in your plate.”

– Alison O’Keefe, Frisch’s vp of promoting

About 10 miles away from Wynn resides South Level’s Backyard Buffet. Of all of the cas-ino buffets in Vegas, it’s the one one which stayed open since reopening in July 2020. In June 2021, it returned to 100% capability and self-serve. Forging a standard buffet setup, Backyard is already again to pre-pandemic ranges. “At this level, in need of slightly further Plexiglas, the Backyard Buffet appears to be like the identical because it did previous to the pandemic,” Ryan Growney, basic supervisor of South Level, advised HuffPost. “We’re already again to pre-pandemic ranges almost about covers, and I don’t assume that’s going to alter any time quickly.”

Final yr, Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention pointers halted self-serve, however prospects are gleeful it’s again. “The purpose of a buffet is you get to resolve what you need and the way a lot of it you need,” Growney stated. “You lose a few of that when it’s a staff-served buffet. There have been a number of individuals that may have appreciated the servers in place, however the majority of our prospects are delighted it’s again to regular.”


Frisch’s, a burger chain that has 103 areas (down from 110) in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, reopened its weekend breakfast bar final summer time with attendants doling out staples like biscuits and gravy and eggs. This winter, these states lifted self-serve restrictions and Frisch’s all-you-can-eat bar — infused with new objects — rebounded.

“We noticed a fairly vital soar in gross sales in Indiana after we opened the bars again as much as be self-serve, after which as Ohio opened up subsequent [in February] after which Kentucky, we noticed a really related pattern,” Alison O’Keefe, Frisch’s vp of promoting, advised HuffPost. “It’s attention-grabbing that even when the choice is there for individuals to get no matter you need, it actually does lose a few of that attraction when individuals can’t do it themselves. There’s most likely a distinction between taking 50 items of bacon versus asking somebody to place 50 items of bacon in your plate, which I completely get.” One factor that hasn’t but returned is Frisch’s soup and salad bar, although prospects can order a customizable salad.

Security theater is right here to remain

Whereas we now know the first means COVID-19 is transmitted is thru respiratory droplets, earlier within the pandemic, one purpose buffets closed was as a result of the virus may also be transmitted via fomites (objects that carry an infection). The virus can feasibly lurk on serving spoons or different objects that prospects contact at a buffet, and infect somebody whose hand touches their mouth.

As such, final yr the CDC said: “Keep away from providing any self-serve meals or drink choices, equivalent to buffets, salad bars and drink stations. This limits using shared serving utensils, handles, buttons or touchscreens and helps prospects to remain seated and no less than six ft aside from individuals who don’t dwell of their family.” The Meals and Drug Administration echoed the CDC’s suggestion in discontinuing self-service buffets. Nonetheless, it additionally wrote: “There is no such thing as a present proof to help the transmission of COVID-19 related to meals or meals packaging.”

A Candy Tomatoes restaurant that was quickly closed as a result of COVID-19 pandemic is seen on the day that Backyard Recent Eating places introduced it won’t reopen its 97 Candy Tomatoes and Souplantation areas throughout the USA.

To fight this, cleanliness has ramped up at most buffets. Wynn workers, for instance, now wipe down the buffet space each half-hour and workers change serving-line utensils each 10-Quarter-hour.

“If there so occurs to be a visitor who occurred to make use of one spoon for this dish however they used it for a distinct dish, we really change out the 2 dishes and change them utterly,” Duarte stated. “For me, I believe well being and sanitation is an absolute paramount and I believe these practices ought to simply keep in place so we will at all times serve the most well liked, freshest and most secure meals attainable for our friends. If we proceed with these sanitation practices, it’s solely going to make us stronger. We had strict well being and sanitation practices previous to the pandemic, so actually it’s simply an added further half an hour that now we have to do our sanitation, however I’m OK with that.”


Frisch’s continues to supply prospects sanitizer and gloves. “Regardless whether or not or not persons are in our private eating places or wherever else really using it, I believe it’s nonetheless actually essential to have that accessible for the individuals who need it, to make individuals really feel protected with a stage of hospital clear that now we have in our eating places,” O’Keefe stated. Within the Earlier than Occasions, sanitary circumstances at buffets have been a trigger for concern. Nevertheless it’s attainable buffets are probably the most glowing clear they’ve ever been.

Buffets ‘won’t ever die’

Although buffets in Vegas and inside some eating places appear to be flourishing, one COVID-19 buffet casualty is the stand-alone buffet restaurant. Up to now yr, Outdated City Buffet and HomeTown Buffet closed completely, Golden Corral terminated areas, Candy Tomatoes/Souplantation completely closed all its areas and Sizzler filed for chapter.

Not like Golden Corral and the ilk, Frisch’s is a restaurant first, which has helped it survive. “We’ve a full menu exterior of [the breakfast bar],” O’Keefe stated. “We have already got drive-thrus and curbside carryout. It’s a distinct enterprise mannequin. Ours was kind of ‘and.’ We’ve our present menu AND breakfast bar. That’s the massive distinction.”

Duarte predicts buffets will progress into extra tremendous dining-like atmospheres. “I actually consider that having a buffet is synonymous with Las Vegas and I actually don’t consider they’re going to go away,” he stated. “They’re a good way for friends to return in with a big group of individuals. I don’t consider the buffets will ever go away, particularly if we maintain to our excessive requirements. We won’t solely survive, I believe we’re going to thrive and simply proceed on. We’re totally dedicated to staying open and totally dedicated to maintain on reinventing how we cook dinner the meals and the way we painting the meals for our friends.”

“Nothing will ever return to being precisely the identical,” O’Keefe stated, “however I do assume that over the upcoming months, as persons are getting extra out and about and vaccinated, that folks will return to [breakfast] bars.”

To this point, numerous iterations of the American buffet have weathered probably the most unsure yr in current reminiscence. For buffet lovers, this information must be as joyful as a plate piled excessive with bacon.

“There will certainly be numerous buffets that by no means come again, however our prospects love our buffet and till that adjustments, our buffet won’t ever die,” Growney stated.

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