Grab a plate: Many Americans say they’re ready for a buffet

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
May 29, 2020, 2:40 PM UTC

Will the all-you-can-eat buffet be a relic of the time before COVID-19 Many Americans hope not. 

According to a recent survey of nearly 26,000 US adults, roughly a quarter (27%) said they’d be somewhat or very likely to eat at a buffet-style restaurant once restrictions are lifted. On the flipside, nearly two-thirds (65%) said they’re not very or not at all likely. 

It’s worth noting that coronaviruses such as COVID-19 are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. 

YouGov data suggest younger Americans aged 25-34 are particularity keen, as roughly a third (35%) say they're at least somewhat likely to hit the buffet line once they’re allowed to, while those age 55 and over are less likely (21%). 

Men (34%) are significantly more likely than women (19%) to say they’re likely to take advantage of an all-you-can-eat buffet. 

Restaurants and retail food establishments are regulated at the state and local level, as the Food and Drug Administration points out.  State, local, and tribal regulators use the food code published by the FDA to develop or update their own food safety rules. Buffet-style restaurants are advised to install sneeze guards if they haven’t been already and switch out utensils frequently.  

Buffet and grill chain The Golden Corral recently started opening up some of its locations, albeit with a re-tooled setups, such as cafeteria-style, where employees serve patrons on the buffet lines, or family-style, where servers bring buffet items to the tables. 

But as some restaurants quickly morph under new rules and attitudes, others have buckled under the pressure brought on by the pandemic. Souplantation, the west-coast based buffet chain, announced the closure of its 97 locations (including its Sweet Tomatoes locations) as a result of COVID-19.  

Still, Americans are keen to head back to their favorite restaurants. In a separate survey in April, we asked Americans what they look forward to most when businesses re-open and the majority said dine at a restaurant or bar. 

Methodology: Total sample size was 25,867 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between May 18 and 28, 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults.

Image: Getty