Buffets within the Covid-19 period: How will Vegas and cruise ships adapt?

(CNN) – David Yeskel remembers the old days when there were shows full of casinos and, especially, buffets that you could eat.

Yeskel, a Las Vegas tour operator called “The Vegas Guru,” recalls the many donations of caviar to Bellagio. Peking duck pancakes are made in Wynn. A foie gras peanut butter and jelly at the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars. The perennial shoulders of crabs are the starting point for the ribs and crock of chocolate mousse.

Buffets can cost a good casino – $ 40 and $ 50 and $ 100 per head – but it was Vegas, baby. They were temples to lust; surprised the guests.

“There is nothing like it anywhere else because of its size and color,” he says on the phone. “The Vegas buffet has become a well-known brand in its own right. They live on top, like everything else in Vegas, and the best food you can find in any other buffet anywhere.”

Those were not long ago.

But now, in the Covid-19 world, Vegas high-end buffetes are heavily closed, except for a few. The Buffet in Wynn, which reopened in June by guests ordering from servers that serve their food at the table – near a typical restaurant, in other words – closed in early September “based on guest feedback,” the hotel said in a statement.

Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas recently closed after reopening in June.

Barbara Kraft / Wynn Las Vegas

The same dilemma confuses some tourist magnets where “all you can eat buffet” is a fairy tale – or generous – experience. In some cases, such as hotels that specialize in their breakfast, they just change: instead of all free meals, for example, some hotels use servers while others pack food.

Ships change course

But for others, the only buffet you can eat is the symbolic land of suspension. Shipping companies, in particular, remain closed while they wait for approved protocols to resume operations in the US.Tourist guides are still exploring how their popular buffetes can work in the Covid-19 world. The Norwegian Cruise Line says buffets should work closely with staff to help visitors, in line with its health and safety reform guidelines, and Royal Caribbean officials have indicated they want to change, but not give up, their Windjammer buffet.

All the land trips to Vegas have taken a toll.

Carnival, the world’s largest company, lost $ 4.4 billion a quarter earlier this year and another $ 2.9 billion recently. Last month, MGM Resorts – Las Vegas’s top casino manager – announced the dismissal of 18,000 employees across the country, including many more.

With more Covid-19-powered gloves, the only buffet you can eat should change, says Lu Lu, a professor at Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management. On the one hand, people love to see a food show, just an event. Also, people also need reassurance that their experiences are safe, he says.

“[The management] should make a statement that they are preparing various safety and health information to welcome visitors, “says Lu.

The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace Las Vegas has been temporarily closed, according to its website.

The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace Las Vegas has been temporarily closed, according to its website.

Caesar Palace Las Vegas

Very buffet climb

Las Vegas or the cruise liner companies have not created the only buffet you can eat.

The idea originated in Sweden in the 16th century, starting with a small spread called brannvinsbord. This was transformed into a smorgasbord in the 18th century. The Smorgasbords became world-famous after the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, and were exhibited at the Swedish pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair.

But it was Vegas casino manager, Herb McDonald, who took the idea to an extreme in America. In 1945, Mc Ronald’s El Rancho casino opened a 24-hour buffet and charged guests one dollar to eat. Naturally the prospect of timeless food attracted a lot of people, and the idea became more and more popular in the town with free drinks, neon signs and Wayne Newton.

Vegas being in Vegas, the next step was to blow it up, first at the Bellagio, then at other casino venues.

The idea, says business expert Elizabeth Blau, who helped create buffets in Bellagio, Wynn and Beau Rivage, should “create something closer to a good restaurant.”

Blau, who is now CEO of Blau + Associates, says: “When you go to well-known hotels throughout Europe, there is a continental breakfast, and it is also found in Asia.” “But the Las Vegas casino buffet is unique in America.”

The Bellagio, for example, had a separate activity area and several open kitchens that prepared food in front of the guest. These buffets, unlike their predecessors, were a lucrative place in their own right, Blau says.

Royal Caribbean is expected to change its buffet by providing ships.

Royal Caribbean is expected to change its buffet by providing ships.

Michel Verdure / Royal Caribbean

On modern passenger ships – a genre that originated in the 1970s “The Love Boat” – the idea was clear, says Stewart Chiron, a travel specialist known as “The Cruise Guy.”

“It’s not a commercial art. It’s just been one of the things that happens when modern travelers start. There’s no other way to feed so many people so quickly,” he says.

Restoring a declining eating culture

In the meantime, in the complex, highly integrated environment of modern travel, the survival of buffets connected to everything else: resumption of flights, reliance on hotel hygiene, long-term dining options to be able to meet in larger groups, says Usha Haley, W. Frank Barton Distinguished Chair in International Business at Wichita State University.

“It’s all part of the internet,” says Haley, a businessman. It is said that buffets, for the most part, have been declining for more than two decades now – the fifth of which has been closed since the 1990s – so if this style is to exist, it must be redefined.

Blau, the restorer, agrees.

Self-propelled masks, self-made buckets will probably never rise again soon.

Self-propelled masks, self-made buckets will probably never rise again soon.


“The little silver lining on these problems is that we have to do things smarter and smarter,” he says. Vegas already has high standards of hygiene, he says – it has to be, thanks to a combination of diet and preparation. Now the hospitality team needs to find a way to have the most anonymous: guests.

The maritime business has to make some changes.

Chiron cites the image of ships as “floating dishes” in recognition of the fact that they already have hygienic practices that result from the spread of disease, such as increased cleaning, less contact between visitors and less self-contained workplaces.

In addition, buffet shipping styles have changed over the past 25 years, he says. “Most of them now take place in different locations. The old systems can be more stable and wear gloves that send riders,” he says.

In Vegas, one of the few buffets re-opened by Wicked Spoon at The Cosmopolitan, which has been very different from its competitors in putting up most of their dishes. According to a Las Vegas Review-Tribune article, the biggest change is serving: instead of a guest picking up a plate, the servers serve them individually. (Another reopened buffet, South Point Casino’s Garden Buffet, also caters to guests.)

The buffet restaurant in Wynn Las Vegas is now closed.

The buffet restaurant in Wynn Las Vegas is now closed.

Barbara Kraft / Wynn Las Vegas

Temple’s Lu says American buffets can learn a lesson from their Chinese counterparts, where the last buffets are the best places to go – a place where you can go for a good day, and good food and goodies ask (if small).

“In China, most places are back to normal,” said Lu, a citizen of the country who still communicates with many people there. “I don’t think the social situation will be any different from the country, so we have to look at the developing world.”

Similarly Doug Parker, who runs cruiseradio.net, a website and podcast travel agency, says he is looking at Europe and Asia “with a distant eye to see what works. The table power is small and spreadable, with five feet apart between each table. ”

Marine fans are a volunteer group, and Parker and Chiron say friends can’t wait to get back together. Parker says 85% of emails are asked when to check. “He can’t wait for her to come back,” he says.

And Yeskel is confident that Las Vegas – and its restaurants – will rise again, even if it starts with a temporary standstill. Besides, what better place to be than to have a place of pleasure like a desert city?

“I like to think that Vegas has always been a tourist destination in the world, and it will also find a way back – maybe some parts of these companies,” he says. “It will guide itself.”

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