Back in the dark days of the spring of 2020, we predicted that the all-you-can-eat buffet had gone the way of the ashtray on the restaurant table. (Does anyone else remember that? It would just be sitting there next to the salt and pepper shakers, and sometimes it would still have traces of ashes in it from the last person who sat there.) In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, largely spread by an airborne virus, it seemed inconceivable that we would ever again want to eat food that lots of people had previously breathed on.
But time and vaccinations heal all wounds. Or at least make us forget how goddamned terrified we were last year. And so, The Wall Street Journal reports, the buffet is back!
It’s not quite the same as it was before. WSJ reporters checked in with buffet owners all around the country and cataloged the changes. Now diners have to make reservations, and their time is limited. The restaurants provide plastic gloves beside the stack of plates, and utensils are changed out regularly. In some cases, the food is dished out by workers, cafeteria style. And the chocolate fountain is now off-limits to patrons (though of course kids are still going to try to stick their fingers in it).
But the people are overjoyed. When the Golden Corral in Cicero, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, reopened last month, the line of patrons was out the door (“Some even dressed up for the occasion,” the Journal reported), and it hasn’t really abated since.
The biggest problem now for buffet owners is getting enough workers and food. So prices have gone up. “The buffet business will never be the same,” Lance Trenary, CEO of Golden Corral, told the WSJ. “It was either roll over and become a victim or adapt.” But the fact that buffets are back seems like miracle enough. Still—would you eat at a buffet right now?