Buffets Could Be Poised To Return As Customers Seek Cost-Effective Food Options

When you go to a Golden Corral or any other buffet-style eatery, you're going for one thing only: to eat as much as you can and as much as you want. Buffets are built around the idea of the customer serving themselves, doing away with menus and waiters and instead letting customers go hog wild with whatever they want. For a nominal fee, a customer can pile everything from fried chicken and steak to cake and ice cream on their plate. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, buffets were forced to adopt new methods of serving customers, as the old cafeteria-style method of serving was no longer hygienic. According to The Huffington Post, several buffet chains — ones that didn't suffer bankruptcy or closure, like Sweet Tomatoes or Old Town Buffet — adopted new cleanliness standards and radically modified self-serve options. TODAY even raises the question of whether buffets and other self-service-style restaurants can even survive in a post-pandemic world. After all, would people who had spent over two years wearing masks and social distancing really be excited to jump back into the somewhat messy world of steam trays and all-you-can-eat smorgasbords?

It seems that, despite all those trials, buffets are slowly beginning to re-emerge — and are perhaps more popular than ever.

Customers want to have a more cost-effective meal

According to the Boston Globe, there seems to be a steady return of customers seeking "endless buffets" and "all-you-can-eat" options, even after the two-year pandemic scare. Places such as Whole Foods and Stop & Shop are setting up buffet-style options, and Golden Corral is bringing back its Endless Buffet option. How is it that, after two years of such intensive focus on hygiene, people are returning to buffets en masse?

The answer is simple: People want more food for their money. With rising food prices and ongoing supply chain issues, people don't want to spend more money for a smaller portion of food. Customers would much prefer paying a fee and then eating to their heart's content. Unlimited food certainly beats limited portions for almost the same price.

Per QSR Magazine, a good example of this revitalization of the buffet industry would be Mr. Gatti's Pizza, a buffet-style pizzeria located in the Southern and Southeastern United States. The outlet reports that, despite the troubles of the pandemic, the company has seen impressive growth over the last two years, opening more than 60 franchises since 2019, and a further 20 more locations are planned to open later in 2022. QSR Magazine also reports that large-scale family entertainment centers have witnessed 97.71% growth since 2021.

If you're in the mood for some buffet food now, why not check out some of the best buffets in the U.S. to see if one of them is near you?