Buffets in the Shadow of COVID

We passed a Chinese buffet the other day and Mark asked if we would ever get back to one. I don’t know the answer for us, but what are other people doing about buffets?

I can’t blame the pandemic on my dislike or hesitancy for restaurant styled buffets so for me it was as usual. I don’t enjoy buffets because the food sits out, is not hot enough and I don’t eat large portions.

Given the close indoor seating and people involved preparing meals at std. establishments, why would a buffet be categorized any differently than the number of people involved in serving non buffet meals?

If I needed to, I took a break from dining out anywhere.


I’m going to be avoiding them. I had Norwalk in Nov 2019 after someone in my family brought it home from a buffet.

I get so turned off seeing how other people behave at buffets. Even at banquets.

I liked that at my hotel buffet in Geneva, back in 2016, the hotel had pre-portioned the smoked salmon and cheese into 1 or 2 ounce portions in little dishes. It kept hotel guests a little more civilized , in terms of not taking as much, leading to less excess and less waste.

I remember being a guest at a hotel on the Left Bank, and watching another guest take the entire wheel of Camembert for himself at the buffet. Lol.

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In a hospitality suite at a convention, I saw someone take an entire bread bowl (spherical loaf scooped out) filled with dip for himself!


Good question. We do enjoy the occasional Chinese or Indian buffet, but haven’t been to one since the pandemic started. I’m not in a hurry to return, but I did grab some takeaway from our local Stew Leonard’s (grocery store) buffet-style hot food bar the other day. I had the knee-jerk moment of “is it safe?” that accompanies every post-lockdown first, but it passed immediately, and it was nice to return to another bit of routine I had missed. Maybe the Indian buffet will be next!


The hot table and salad bar at my indie grocery now has everything pre-packaged in small containers. I don’t think I’ll get food at a hot table anymore m, unless it’s behind glass, and an employee is serving it up.

I havent been to a buffet for some years. Concerns about hygiene and just poor quality food. Covid just adds another layer on why I’m not goign to restart visiting them


Here in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, buffets are a really big deal and local people are going. I don’t think that tourists are choosing them as often though. I’m sensing a downhill slide but am not sure how to quantify it. I do wistfully drive by one or two of them and wish I’d visited more often.

I only used to frequent buffets sparingly, although I’d use a supermarket’s salad bar more often.

Since the pandemic, both are gone, and I’m OK with that, as neither is really sanitary. (Those sneeze shields do nothing, IMO). I do miss the convenience of salad bars, however. The owner of the Chinese restaurant near my workplace says he’s not sure if it’ll come back. He’s just thankful he’s able to serve food!

On a side note, my FB memories today came up with a post from March 13, 2020, where I had given a list of our employees to the restaurant’s manager, and employees went over to choose from the buffet for our Friday company lunch. They had been hit very hard at the early start of the pandemic, as were all Chinese restaurants, so we wanted to give him some business. He was so grateful.

They ended up having to close for several months a week later, but once they were back open for takeout only, they went into our Company Friday Lunch rotation for those of us who were in-office. We just used them this past Friday, for a total of 16 people. The employees I sent over to pick up the bags of food said the restaurant was bustling with seated diners. A very nice change from two years ago.


I haven’t been squeamish at the hotel breakfast buffets at boutique hotels in Munich, Rome and Geneva. I would do a buffet breakfast at some of those.

When I was in Hakuba, Japan in Jan 2020, my hotel had a breakfast buffet daily , and a dinner buffet 3 nights. Most guests were behaving in a respectful manner, taking what they touched, etc.

One little kid was touching things, and coughing, and I made an audible Ewwwww and muttered a “That’s disgusting” so the (English-speaking) parent would hear. :rofl: I backed away and got food from some other part of the buffet.

This was 3 days before we would find out that a Japanese bus driver and tour guide had picked up Covid from some tourists visiting from mainland China. It was already spreading in Japan.


FWIW supermarkets here removed their salad bars several years back - well before Covid. Presumably insufficiently profitable.


Britain still has Pizza Hut buffets. Those Pizza Hut buffets have been disappearing in Canada and the States, but they still exist in some small towns in northern Montana, probably North Dakota and elsewhere.

The Pizza Hut lunch buffet is (or was) one of the best places to eat in Glasgow, Montana.

It’s many years since I’ve been in one. The centre of our town used to be totally lacking in “proper” sit-down restaurants - not even a chain one. I spent one day a week, for many weeks, researching at the main library. The lunch choices were Pizza Hut, Subway or a very dismal Chinese buffet.


This. Lousy food, stacked high and suffering a slow and painful death under a heat lamp or on a steam table. I rarely go back more than once, so it’s not something I enjoy.

There are a couple of exceptions, but they’re few, far between, and serve in small batches that are replaced (not just added to) regularly.


I think there are those kinds of buffets, then there are the Ritz Carlton kinds of buffets, where you’re dropping $80 and less people are misbehaving.

The Ritz Carlton type have more buffet police, watching when serving spoons drop to the floor, or when a guest has manhandled a loaf of bread. :joy:

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I also don’t enjoy the way beverages are set up at a buffet.

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Around here, there seemed to be only one Indian restaurant that served a regular lunch rather than a buffet, and that was the one we went to. (Their lunch was the same price as the dinner entree, but they also gave you pakora and naan with it.) We haven’t been there in a couple of years; last time I checked they were still only take-out.

I’m not talking about misbehavior. I’m talking about crap food, either mummified under heat lamps or flabby on a steam table.

I’m thinking of the 100 a plate Vegas buffets and the fact that I would rather have smaller plates of great food than a backhoe shovel full of dreck.


I’m unclear exactly the concern about COVID as it relates to buffets. It’s now well established that COVID is transmitted by aerosols, not by picking up germs carried by fluids. Say what you will about buffets, it’s unlikely that your COVID risk is affected by patronizing them provided you are careful, as in any crowd, to not be breathed on. As to being careful about what you touch/select, that’s goes without saying. Nothing new there.

As to buffets in general, like all types of restaurants there is a range in quality. However, being somewhat knowledgable about food (as anybody who posts here presumably is), I find I can always find a few worthwhile things to eat on just about any buffet – I’m not eating all 100 items or whatever it is. Not hard to do – start with examining the offerings, then try a few tiny samples that passed the initial screen, then go back for the ones that did well on the taste test. Not hard. When on the road, for example, and in need of a quick meal, you can certainly find healthier options (veggies, salad) than a burger and fries.

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I’ve seen a salad bar in Morrisons. Just a few days ago. Plus it looks like Mr Basrai and Cosmo (two Asian buffets) are operating (I’ve not been in so I can’t say how but…)