All you can eat: it's an invitation that is hard to resist, and the lure in a diverse land of picky eaters has made buffets a staple of the American restaurant industry. In a world of struggling curbside pick-up and delivery, buffet restaurants are feeling the pinch most.
Sweet Tomatoes restaurants, which offer a self-serve salad bar, announced they are closing all of their 79 locations across the country, including four in the Houston area.
As sit down eateries reopen to customers, granted only at 25% capacity, buffet restaurants are reeling from the past two months of no customers and no revenue. Melissa Stewart, Executive Director of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, thinks it will be temporary. "While we don't have any kind of immunization or cure, they just aren't a good, viable option right now," she tell KTRH News. But several months from now, she expects them to reemerge, perhaps with individual serving utensils and a change in service, but they'll be back. We are just too culturally attached to the model to drop it altogether.
Burger King and Popeye's are discontinuing, temporarily, self-serve soda and drink fountains, for safety's sake, another indication of adjustments the industry is making. A server will now fill your order. "Some of these things will come back," Stewart says. "Consumers really like that. I do think that's something we will see again."
What we won't see is anyone's guess in this time of reorganization of long-standing habits and preferences that have run head-on into a deadly virus. If there is any consolation it is that nature hates a void, and as some familiarities fade away, new possibilities will emerge to capture our interest. The restaurant industry is having to reimagine itself, and only time will tell what we, the customers, hold on to and what goes down the drain.
photo courtesy of getty images