TEXAS – While many industries are having to change how they operate because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fate of buffet restaurants is still unclear.

What You Need To Know

  • One national buffet chain has closed 97 restaurants

  • Other chains are working to change business models during the pandemic

FDA officials have recommended restaurants stop services that require customers to use shared utensils whether they be at salad bars, buffets, or beverage service stations. This could end up being a difficult task for restaurants that primarily operate as buffets.

The owners of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes announced they are permanently closing their 97 restaurant locations. The chain, which previously had a few Texas locations in the Houston area and other parts of the U.S., is known for serving health-focused foods like salads buffet style.

According to the company’s website, approximately 4,400 staff members will be out of work because of the closures. And as of now, it appears customers that purchased gift cards may not get refunds the traditional way.

“For gift card inquiries, refund options are limited at this time. You may be able to dispute the purchase with your bank or credit card company. Otherwise, there may be an alternative option available through the court in the future,” said a statement on the Souplantation website.

Despite the dire signals the closings may send to similar restaurant chains, others are trying to make changes fast so they don’t meet the same fate.

Since the pandemic made its way to the U.S., Golden Corral restaurants have been adjusting their business model restaurant-by-restaurant in order to accommodate state regulations individual restaurants face.

More than 30 Texas locations have been converted into cafeteria-style restaurants where staff members plate the customers’ food for them behind a counter.

But in California for example, Golden Corral restaurants are still only serving to-go orders.

Another popular chain is taking a similar approach. According to its website, the Jason’s Deli salad bar is “back,” but customers will select their ingredients from afar and a staff member will make it for them.

Now it’s just waiting to see if consumers will return.