In Memoriam: Buffets, Gone But Never Forgotten

Since 1946 when we were promised that for one dollar you can eat “every possible variety of hot and cold entrees to appease the howling coyote in your innards,” America has been in love with buffets. That was the slogan for Buckaroo Buffet, the world’s first 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet launched in Las Vegas. 

Eight decades later, buffets sit empty because the sneeze guard is no longer enough protection during a global pandemic. In the age of Covid, you need a ServSafe certification just to handle a fork before someone puts it in their mouth. 

In March the FDA recommended discontinuing self-serve buffets, and 38 states have since issued rules restricting them. The other twelve states are still trying to get people to wear masks at Costco. While many restaurants were able to reopen for takeout and outdoor service with limited capacity, all-you-can-eat buffets were forbidden from doing the same. 

Beloved buffet chain restaurants Souplantation, Sweet Tomatoes, Hometown Buffet, and Golden Corral have all filed bankruptcy due to forced closures. Souplantation cited Coronavirus as the sole reason for closing its doors and took no responsibility for its problematic name. 

Not only is the buffet business in financial trouble, but they’re basically illegal (which makes them cooler than ever). Swapping tongs can get you slapped with a heavy fine, shut down by the health department, or even handcuffs.  

The only Buffets you can trust right now are Warren and Jimmy. But even Jimmy Buffett’s namesake buffets are wasting away in casinos. 

Sadly, the ban on buffets is not limited to restaurants. Buffets turn up at lots of places like weddings, parties, Bar Mitzvahs, and even strip clubs (which was never the safest option, let’s be real). They’re less formal than table service, and a lot cheaper than hiring waitstaff, making them ideal for even small social gatherings. 

But, it’s time to finally say goodbye to the dirty little gluttonous habit of unlimited communal food troughs. Farewell buffets. We loved you. We didn’t appreciate you while we still had you. If only we had known the last time at Sizzler would truly be the last time, we would have snuck a few more yeast rolls into our purses. Goodbye to the judgment-free zone of eating four plates of food, and one is just Jell-O.  Goodbye to eating prime rib, crab legs, and pizza in the same sitting. Goodbye buffets. You’re gone but not forgotten.

Paulina Combow
Author: Paulina Combow
Paulina is an LA-based comedian and writer from Kentucky with 9 years of club experience. You can find her doing Roast Battles at The Comedy Store, and entertaining senior citizens with Laughter on Call. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Nashville Scene, and Reductress.