Food & Drink

Major US Buffet Chains In Trouble

  • Last Updated:
  • Jun 8th, 2020 10:34 pm
63 replies
Deal Expert
Feb 7, 2017
15515 posts
12723 upvotes
Eastern Ontario
Cannot view the news article
(Washington Post = By Subscription ONLY )

But I was thinking about this very thing today

How many US Restaurants have some sort of AYCE self serve area
Be it a Salad Bar, Appy Bar, Seafood Bar ... or Sundae / Dessert Bar

Covid could definitely be the death of some of these places
Or drastic changes ...
Not that Covid is gastro related
But ... I think people will just shy away out of caution

Could ring the death knell for chains like Ruby Tuesday ... great Salad Bars
(hasn’t been doing so good of late anyhow)
Brazilian Steakhouses
Cruise Ship Buffets
And the 2 big ones ... Calabash Seafood Restaurants in The Carolina’s
But the perennial fave ... Casino Buffets
That’s gonna really hurt places like Las Vegas etc
Deal Addict
May 2, 2013
1573 posts
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Toronto
buffets are a major contributor to food waste. at the end of the day, the food that's been sitting in the steam-table is tossed out into the trash. the fewer buffets, the better.
Deal Expert
Feb 9, 2012
16510 posts
3733 upvotes
Toronto
oicthat2013 wrote: buffets are a major contributor to food waste. at the end of the day, the food that's been sitting in the steam-table is tossed out into the trash. the fewer buffets, the better.
I love the buffet restaurants. I'm pretty sure every effort to maximize profit is always made with the (untouched) left overs...something as simple as tomorrow's in house soup/stew...
If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
Deal Addict
Oct 3, 2013
1506 posts
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West
At least COVID-19 will be helping with other aspects of health...

Kidding aside, I don't think this'll be a big deal, but will just involve some logistical changes where they tool up to be more like traditional restaurants, or just transition to using an ordering system. Many all-you-can-eats exist where they hand you a sheet you tick off items you want, and they'll serve requested items to the table. Given that the worry is high traffic areas and surfaces, my guess is the above will be a reasonable way around these restrictions, since it's really no different than ordering from a menu.
Penalty Box
Feb 22, 2016
4745 posts
4316 upvotes
No news here, Buffets Inc (now known as Ovation Brands) has been in trouble for years. Filed for Chapter 11 three times already, 2008, 2012, and 2016. COVID will finish them off:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ovation_Brands
https://www.businessinsider.sg/coronavi ... nts-2020-5

Eventually if you want the classic American style buffet the only place you'll find it is in casinos...
Deal Expert
Feb 7, 2017
15515 posts
12723 upvotes
Eastern Ontario
EastGTARedFlagger wrote: No news here, Buffets Inc (now known as Ovation Brands) has been in trouble for years. Filed for Chapter 11 three times already, 2008, 2012, and 2016. COVID will finish them off:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ovation_Brands
https://www.businessinsider.sg/coronavi ... nts-2020-5

Eventually if you want the classic American style buffet the only place you'll find it is in casinos...
Interesting links...

Was surprised to discover there are STILL so many Buffet chains in the USA
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_b ... estaurants

We don’t do those sorts of Buffets when we are in the USA
Lol, not even Golden Corral ... a mainstay for so many seniors we meet

Nor do we go to Mandarin here

Guess overall, Buffets are just not our thing
(Exception ... a really good high end buffet ... like some of the ones found at Casinos or Brunch Buffets at a few hotels like The Fairmont Chateaus)

I think it’s a case of ... to everything there is a season
(Buffets were HUGE for my Parents generation and have been decreasing in popularity since the 1990s)

But also ... there’s a concept of regeneration, where everything old ... is new again

So I predict the replacement for low cost sit down food will see an emergence of the old “cafeteria” style places
Where one picks up a tray, is served items ... and then sits down in a dining room / dining hall.

These sorts of places were big in the 40s, 50s, and 60s ... but died out in the 70s & 80s
(Last places most of us will recall here in Canada in this style would be ... Ponderosa, Dept Store Cafeterias, and the likes of Movenpick or Ikea’s Restaurant )

This is what I believe will fill the buffet ... serve yourself gap
The spot between Fast Food & a regular sit down Restaurant
Deal Guru
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Sep 1, 2005
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Markham
It'll be a real sad day if this is forever reality and everything as we know it changes. Let's hope that this is temporary and we eventually get back to normalcy.

BTW not all buffets are of the $10 per person variety, As some ppl have alluded to there are high end buffets like at Casinos, Hotel brunches, Cruiseliner buffets etc.

Buffets could still adapt....screen/plexiglass off the food and have staff do all the dishing...[think kind of the deli counter at grocery stores].
We're all bozos on the bus until we find a way to express ourselves...

Failure is always an option...just not the preferred one!
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Nov 9, 2013
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gr8dlr wrote: BTW not all buffets are of the $10 per person variety, As some ppl have alluded to there are high end buffets like at Casinos, Hotel brunches, Cruiseliner buffets etc.

Buffets could still adapt....screen/plexiglass off the food and have staff do all the dishing...[think kind of the deli counter at grocery stores].
That would increase costs due to increased overhead in facilitating such needs for having a server deployed at every station to serve the queue of guests. So your average $10 buffets (hardly any at that range around anymore) would be looking in the $20 per person range.
Deal Fanatic
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Mar 31, 2017
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For Vegas, the draw are the casinos and buffets for most people. The buffets will have to resort to having a server put food onto a plate for every serving section if they want to continue having buffets. I suspect they will transition to a regular menu restaurant in the future as this would be too problematic.

It was going downhill anyways. Going from king crab legs to snow crabs was unacceptable.
Sr. Member
Aug 12, 2012
853 posts
418 upvotes
Richmond Hill
I remember being at a buffet in Florida and seeing a kid sneeze right into the food. He was short enough that his head was below the sneeze guard.

This was at one of those $10 buffets and I would definitely pay extra to have a server hand out the food. I'd pay even more if they don't give me judgey looks when I'm coming to them like Oliver Twist for the 6th time.
Deal Guru
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Sep 1, 2005
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Strafe1 wrote: That would increase costs due to increased overhead in facilitating such needs for having a server deployed at every station to serve the queue of guests. So your average $10 buffets (hardly any at that range around anymore) would be looking in the $20 per person range.
I don't think there will be a choice. Perhaps do a temporary $5/pp or more surcharge...depends on how much the buffet is to start with..

Yes costs will/should increase. Having said that if there's a "disher/server" you can't take 5 lobsters per person anymore so there's some savings to be had. As well, you might not go up as often just because it takes more time - perhaps they will limit number of trips as well?
We're all bozos on the bus until we find a way to express ourselves...

Failure is always an option...just not the preferred one!
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Mar 31, 2017
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The issue is the lineups in front of each food section. It defeats the 6 feet rule and blocks the restaurant from other foot traffic. Simply put, a restaurant was never designed to keep people 6 feet from each other, especially in a buffet setting. A buffet would get shut down so fast as is.

A full serve all you can order off a menu would work as well. But much higher cost.
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Nov 9, 2013
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gr8dlr wrote: I don't think there will be a choice. Perhaps do a temporary $5/pp or more surcharge...depends on how much the buffet is to start with..

Yes costs will/should increase. Having said that if there's a "disher/server" you can't take 5 lobsters per person anymore so there's some savings to be had. As well, you might not go up as often just because it takes more time - perhaps they will limit number of trips as well?
Some buffet joints I had been visiting over the years had already put a limit on the "premium" items like crab legs, lobster, etc. per person as they know those things they would get hit the hardest in profit. So that was smart on their part to do so already having those kind of items accessible from someone behind a counter serving people.

They'd probably have some tab set up in place like giving each person dining a slip/ticket of some sort to redeem to get ONE item of those!
Deal Addict
Sep 24, 2007
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If you have ever gone to Dragon Pearl, they do that with their lobsters. They give you a card when you sit down for each person and you trade them in for lobster.
Strafe1 wrote: Some buffet joints I had been visiting over the years had already put a limit on the "premium" items like crab legs, lobster, etc. per person as they know those things they would get hit the hardest in profit. So that was smart on their part to do so already having those kind of items accessible from someone behind a counter serving people.

They'd probably have some tab set up in place like giving each person dining a slip/ticket of some sort to redeem to get ONE item of those!
Deal Addict
Jul 6, 2008
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GTA
I remember going to golden corral in florida.. the memories! haha
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Nov 9, 2013
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danman227460 wrote: If you have ever gone to Dragon Pearl, they do that with their lobsters. They give you a card when you sit down for each person and you trade them in for lobster.
Yup, I thought I read they did that from the Dragon Legend/Pearl RFD voucher thread. I'm sure a lot of other buffet joints have been doing that, especially the Chinese buffet restaurants show more stringency to those kinds of restrictions at the buffet areas.
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Apr 26, 2013
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Toronto
oicthat2013 wrote: buffets are a major contributor to food waste. at the end of the day, the food that's been sitting in the steam-table is tossed out into the trash. the fewer buffets, the better.
There is food wastage everywhere, if you go to Loblaws or any of their stores they throw away a ton of prepared food that isn't sold, same goes for every single restaurant chain. Should we just close all major chains?

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