What Will Buffets Look Like in the Future?
Things have certainly changed in the last few months. In many ways, all aspects of the foodservice industry are having to reevaluate what they will look like when the coronavirus crisis is over. As we've all seen, things have changed quickly, and some of those changes are likely to stick around in the future.
Of all the types of foodservice we can think of, buffets might be the one that are most likely to look different. After all, when you have operations where guests are all lining up together, serving themselves using the same utensils as everyone else, there's always a potential risk. But then again, there always has been risk.
In reality, many of the foodservice equipment solutions and supplies that currently exist make buffets possible -- and safe. And we anticipate a greater emphasis on those safety measures in the future. To say we're going to live in a world without buffet-type service just isn't realistic.
Think about it -- restaurants, hotels, theme parks, cruises, casinos, sporting venues, catering services. Buffets are ubiquitous in so many types of operations. Could you image going to Las Vegas without snagging crab legs from the all-you-can-eat buffet or going on a cruise without the midnight buffet? Neither can many others.
While all types of Americans have a love-affair with the buffet -- whether it's the local all-you-can-eat steakhouse on Friday night or the Sunday buffet brunch with all-you-can-drink mimosas -- convention says it will look different, at least for the foreseeable future.
WHO DOES THE SERVING?
One thing we all want to avoid right now are high-touch items. On buffet lines, there might be 20 or 30 of those items within a span of 10 feet. Think about the tongs you use to grab crab or the spoons used to ladle salad dressing. Right now, nobody wants to touch those things because you don't know who's gone before you in line. One way to avoid this, and also to control portion sizes, we might add, is to have staff do the serving instead.
WHAT'S BEING SERVED?
One thing to consider is what's being served and how it's packaged. While buffets are still banned across the country in many places, one way to still provide foodservice is to use pre-packaged foods, as some are doing.
HOW IS IT BEING SERVED?
Yes, high-touch utensils are certainly a problem, but what if those utensils are single use instead? While it might not be a longterm solution or an environmentally-friendly one if plastic is used, throwaway utensils could be an option to bridge the gab between where we're at and getting back to the buffets we know and love.
Another thing to consider for those operations that will open up as business as usual is the fact that business won't be as usual. Even if the buffet operates as it did in 2019, there's still going to be greater emphasis placed on cleaning, sanitation, and changing out those high-touch utensils.
What do you think the buffet will look like? And how can we help you make it more viable?
We'd love to get your thoughts and experiences as it relates to buffet service in the new era of COVID-19. Please leave your ideas and questions in the comments section below so we can all create a dialog of knowledge and understanding.