The restaurant industry is one of the most severely hit during the current health crisis. Despite their services being deemed essential, the fact that their success hinges on store foot traffic makes things very complicated. Many may be able to sustain their operations through deliveries and pick-ups but it’s not a sustainable model for everyone.
This is especially true for the all-you-can-eat industry. These restaurants need high volumes of diners to break even. Shifting their operations to delivery is also very complicated, especially with how demanding the market can be.
So for a buffet restaurant to succeed, they have to come up with innovative ways to ensure public safety. This can be a major challenge, especially since these eateries are engineered to invest more on the food instead of the service.
The reason why lots of AYCE restaurants afford to churn out a lot of food is because they don’t have to pay for a lot of staff members. So such a change can certainly alter the very structure of their operations. The shift may feel major but some restaurants are willing to give it a shot.
As a diner, what can you expect from this change? As of writing, there are a few major buffet restaurants that have already opened their doors. They employ slightly different measures, so let’s take a look at them closer.
Tableside service at the Buffet at Wynn
The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas is hailed as one of the best all-you-can-eat restaurants in the world so it’s not surprising that they’re among the first to re-open their doors. Their chosen method to continue their operation while ensuring the safety of their guests is by employing tableside service.
This has a huge impact on the buffet dining experience as it eliminates the self-service aspect of it. Guests can now enjoy sit-down style meals while still getting as much servings as they possibly can. Instead of trudging up to the food stations, you now only need to hail a server and ask for something on the menu then they’ll bring a sizable portion to your table.
By doing this, guests do not have to touch serving utensils and they don’t need to move around the space so much.
Food Station Servers at Wicked Spoon
At the Cosmpolitan’s Wicked Spoon, things are a little bit different. If you enjoy the freedom of fetching your own servings of food, you can still do that here. However, they will have servers on their food stations so folks don’t have to scoop up the food themselves. This technique also minimizes the chances of guests touching the same thing which can be the very cause of the spread of the disease.
Improved Social Distancing at the Bellagio
True to the excessive nature at the Bellagio buffet, this AYCE restaurant chose to take an unprecedented route in dealing with the new challenges for their industry. Instead of opening early, they are taking the time to go on a $2.4m renovation while waiting out the pandemic. This is so they can better ensure that patrons and employees can practice social distancing effectively.
Time Limits and Reduced Seating Capacity
Aside from these changes in service methods, both buffets are now also enforcing time limits to diners and reduced seating capacities to their restaurants. Diners are now only allowed to stay for two hours on each visit, mostly to minimize exposure to other guests and to create a good turn-around time for guests.
Focus on Take-outs and Improvement on Existing Services
Not all AYCE diners need to take major changes in order to provide better services to their patrons. Quite a few decided to focus on the services they already offer and improve on the methods they already have in place.
Take Fogo de Chao and Chama Gaucha, for starters. These Brazilian steakhouses have always served their primary offerings (roasted meats) to their guests through the help of Gaucho Chefs. They will continue to do so as they reopen and add Market Chefs to prepare and serve diners their sides and salads right on their tables. Curbside pickup, contactless delivery, and to go butcher shop services are also available for those who wish to enjoy their food at home.
Wood Grill Buffet, on the other hand, has always offered lunch buffet carryouts by the pound even before the pandemic hit. They let diners pick and choose among their spread then they pack it up for customers to enjoy elsewhere. Some experts argue that this isn’t the same as buffet dining anymore since diners are charged by the pound. Given the current circumstances, however, it can be the best alternative option for lots of buffet restaurants.
Change is definitely on the horizon for the buffet industry. It might be a bit jarring for some diners but these changes are necessary. With the health threat the world is facing, taking the steps to adapt and ensure everyone’s safety is a must.