Buffets return as concerns ease for some diners

June 25, 2020

All-you-can-eat meals are back — with some adjustments — as restaurant buffets are beginning to reopen following COVID-19 related shutdowns.

Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet brought its buffet back today after reopening last week for takeout only from a limited menu. The 41st Street restaurant had been closed for three months.

“I see others are opening, so we are too,” said John Li, the front desk manager.

“All customers need to put gloves on” to take food from the buffet stations, Li said. “That way customers don’t touch the handles when you scoop something up.”

Gloves are at each table for customers to use for every trip to get food, he said.

Royal Fork Buffet is seeing about half as many customers as usual, said Dana Lanz, managing partner of the restaurant on the south side of The Empire Mall campus.

“Everybody is still a little tentative. … This is probably where we’re at in a post-COVID world right now,” Lanz said.

Royal Fork closed March 19 as efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 grew. It reopened May 8 with employees dishing up food for diners and returned to regular service May 30.

He worked with the Sioux Falls Health Department to determine which additional safety measures to put in place.

“Everybody is trying to weigh through the CDC guidelines. They seem to change every week. Nothing is ever etched in stone. They’re just guidelines. As a business owner, it can be very frustrating trying to figure out what is the right thing to do.”

In addition to increasing sanitization efforts, limiting seating and encouraging social distancing, Royal Fork made two changes for customers. “We insist that everyone put on gloves before going through the buffet. We provide the gloves, Lanz said. “We allow the guests to get their first drink, and then we do refills.”

At the Pizza Ranch on East 10th Street, customers are becoming very comfortable with the return of the buffet, which had been closed along with the seating area since March 21.

“We were just about even with last weekend or up a little bit for sales,” general manager Austin Tuenge said.

Buffet hours are limited to 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 8 p.m. daily. Before the temporary closure, the buffet was open all the time on the weekends.

Gloves and sanitizer stations are available for customers, staff members are wiping down surfaces and switching out utensils frequently and some tables are blocked off, Tuenge said.

The restaurant closes an hour earlier than usual “because things are slowing down a little earlier in the night than they used to,” he said.

Another high-touch area at Pizza Ranch, the FunZone Arcade, also has reopened with extra cleaning measures, Tuenge said.

“I think everyone has liked the measures we’ve put in place,” he said. “A lot of our old, familiar faces are coming back.”

At Hu-Hot Mongolian Grill, which reopened in late May, customers are required to wear gloves as they pick their ingredients from the food stations for the staff to cook on the large round grill.

“When we first started out, it was slow, and then it has picked up,” supervisor Roger Marowbone said.

The lunch buffet is back at the west-side location for The Keg.

“It’s going over very well,” co-owner Vonnie Larsen said. “People were anxious to get it back and open.”

Business is down about 10 percent, she said. An increase in takeout orders has made up for people who remain “skittish” to eat in the restaurants, she said.

As customers go through the buffet at the West 12th Street location, they’re required to wear gloves and encouraged to stay 6 feet apart from each other.

“Some are still leery, and that’s why we developed our lunch menu so we can appease everybody,” Larsen said of the added offerings, including a chicken sandwich, and chicken and waffles.

The buffet will return to the east-side location once lunch traffic picks up, Larsen said. The Arrowhead Parkway restaurant opened only a month before restaurants in Sioux Falls started to close to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The longtime, popular Sunday buffet at Chevys Fresh Mex might return in another week, bar manager Tyler Wright said. The restaurant on South Louise Avenue is trying to boost its staffing to make that possible, he said.

In the meantime, Chevys is introducing three breakfast options this Sunday that will be served until 1:30 p.m.


Want to stay in the know?

Get our free business news delivered to your inbox.

Buffets return as concerns ease for some diners

All-you-can-eat meals are back — with some adjustments — as restaurant buffets are beginning to reopen following COVID-19 related shutdowns.

News Tip

Have a business news item to share with us?

Scroll to top