Las Vegas Buffets are an institution, for decades these pig put joints have allowed customers to roll on in and pile their plates high, normally for a pretty modest fee, with food of …questionable quality. In recent years things have changed and the Las Vegas Buffet reinvented itself as a high-end luxury food fest!
We LOVE las Vegas Buffets, with the likes of the Bacchanal at Ceasars, The Wicked Spoon, and the Cosmopolitan, and the splendid Wynn Buffet all delighting our foodie taste buds and allowing that real Vegas-style blowout! You can even Buffet in untold luxury with endless champagne, Lobster and Fillet Steak, and the mind-blowing Sterling Brunch…Well, you could.
Like all good things in life, like seeing your family and friends, having a meal out, going to the cinema, heck even just leaving the house! COVID came along ane ruined EVERYTHING! Buffets were one of the first Las Vegas casualties and were quickly shut down, all that touching and cross-contamination was a recipe for public health issues in a pandemic. They are likely to be the last to recover, and this has led many to prophesize we have seen the last of the Las Vegas Buffet.
As of June 18th, the Wynn Buffet is OPEN! – there are few changes, such as limited seating, Tableside Service, and extra sanitation, but Vegas Buffets are BACK!
We are also hearing strong rumors that the Buffets at the MGM Properties will be open soon, More on this as we firm up Details.
Will Las Vegas Buffets Ever Open Again?
Let’s start with the good news, we are pretty sure they will. For several reasons, not least they are no more a threat to virus transmission than other restaurants, maybe a little but not significantly, we will come back to that.
The bad news is the economic omens look very bleak for the whole buffet model in general and this has led to many to force the end of buffets worldwide. We have heard a lot of rubbish from experts about this and people who should know better have been peddling myths and horror stories.
Other Buffets Shut Forever
With the likes of Soup Plantation and Sweet tomatoes closing their doors forever, rumors started and the regular armchair experts already had the obituary notices written and published. However, we feel this is gross is understanding of several situations.
Garden Fresh, cited concerns around the buffet model as their reason for liquidating the franchises. Let’s not forget however that the company had filed for bankruptcy in 2016 with $175 of debt and we do not know how much of their decision was based around the concept of buffet and how much was just cutting their losses? Other Buffet chains are not so quick to follow suit!
Buffets are costly and Casino’s were looking for a reason to shut them
Let’s start our rebuttal to this with a simple and startling fact. The most profitable restaurant in all of North America is Caesars Bacchanal Buffet! The initial investment was over $100million and has seen continual investment ever since and he doors were lined with queues all willing to pay $60+ per head. That doesn’t seem a likely candidate for retirement if it can in any way be saved.
Buffets are HUGE business, They are so far from the “loss leaders” we have heard them called. The high prices and large numbers of customers make them money-making machines. Preparing food on mass is far cheaper than ala carte cooked to order models and the minimal staff needed to run them all add up to one thing. profit.
It is no accident every hotel has its own Buffet and the competition to attract diners is fierce. Buffets make money. After all anywhere in the world where large numbers of people need to be fed cheaply the go-to model is the buffet. Cruise ships, All-inclusive hotels, weddings, funerals, etc… Big numbers and low cost means a buffet!
Financially the Casino’s will get the buffets pen as SOON as possible, which just leaves one question, safety.
Buffets are unsafe and cannot be allowed to Re-Open
This is one of the biggest misunderstandings there is. There is almost nothing inherently unsafe about the buffet model of eating. Restaurants in general are fairy good ways to transmit the virus, but with COVID-19 the biggest risk is close contact with other people. Buffets are no better or worse than other food establishments and with social distancing measures could be perfectly safe, Vegas buffets are also large open spaces so probably a lot safer and able to handle more people with larger operations easier!
The issue with buffets is their image. They are associated with poor hygiene and vats full of bacteria-laden food at like warm temperatures. And really this all has a grain of truth, we have all had lukewarm food at buffets that has been left out too long at that perfect propagation temp, most of us who have visited dubious buffets at all-inclusive resorts may have felt the after-effects too. But Covid-19 is a respiratory virus, it is not spread like other “vomiting bugs” and does not replicate outside of the human (or some animals) body.
Really the only risk (apart from close contact) in a buffet is by touching serving spoons. This is easily solved by the continuation of the small serving dishes common in Las Vegas buffets or having a server add the food to your plate, such as the Carvery stations.
The closing of buffets was a knee-jerk reaction, and one that we agreed with at the time, the virus was very new and little known, anything at that stage to slow the spread was positive. But when planning a re-opening there is no inherent reason Buffets are any less safe than any other eatery!
Of-Course we hate to jump on the internet expert bandwagon and claim to be virologist or worse still know more than the public health experts, we don’t. But that is the thing. This will be in the hands of the public health experts and virologists and when The Buffets submit re-opening plans then there is no scientific reason they cannot resume, and we trust the experts will see this and grant the licenses, if we are incorrect, they will see that too and keep them closed.
Bottom Line, if the authorities grant them safe you can be reasonably confident they are.
When will the Buffets Re-Open then?
If we assume the plan is to Re-Open then we have to ask the question of when? This is a much tougher question to answer as really no one knows. It is safe to assume that Buffet restaurants will be last to Re-open.
One of the cruel aspects of this pandemic is the earliest financial casualties, these businesses that had to close first, and the resulting job losses will be the last to open up again. This is simply as they are, at least perceived to be the higher risk. We have already discussed how buffets are not actually that higher risk but the perception is still there so they will need the most time and the most detailed start-up plans.
Vegas is still running at limited capacity, so there is no really need to open up eateries on mass so the dining options are being supplied by easier to control al-a-carte options or takeaway food. This is likely to continue throughout June and July.
Only a select few hotels are actually open and the next on the list is top open up more of these as demand for rooms increases. Next on the list are Shows. This is another BIG earner in Vegas and the strip will again begin to feel a little more normal when the shows start back up. Target dates at the minute are early July, but things change fast.
Come late July we expect the fate of the Buffets to be more clear. At the minute things are so fluid and we don’ think the casinos have seriously considered it yet. By the end of July, we think this will have changed. That is not to say they will be open for gluttony by then just we should begin to have a clearer picture.
Of Course, when they do open back up, it is highly unlikely they will be exactly like they were, at least for a few months, so what can you expect.
What will Las Vegas Buffets be like when they Re-Open?
While two do not envisage that much change, there will be some very obvious things that have to change off the bat. First will be social distancing, people will need to be 6 feet from each other, like in most public places the world over right now. This may be enforced by marks on the ground, members of staff, or lest to common sense.
We imagine capacity will be much less and tables more spread out ensuring good separation between parties. There will be more little dishes that you can pick up and take back to your table and people are anticipating much more service. You will be less likely to be left to your own devices. This could be as simple as asking for a scoop of this, or a piece of that. By having servers you cut out the “touching” that increases the chance of viral spread.
There will be huge efforts behind the scenes and table turnover will require a deep clean before new guests can sit down, but this is fairly basic hygiene and not a huge deal to implement.
With these simple measures in place, enjoyment will only be minimally reduced while the environment safe for workers and guests.
Masks are a big issue in eateries. You obviously cannot eat with the mask on, but then constantly removing it to take a bite could lead to increased infection risk. This is a thorny subject and one we will leave to the authorities and Casino action planners for now!
And of course, there could always be a second wave…then all bets are off!
Have Your Say?
Looking forward to getting back into the Buffets? Are you happy they would be safe or would you rather avoid for a while? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and let us know if you are ready to hit Vegas Again!