This Is Why You Don’t See Many Buffets Around Anymore

Buffet-style restaurants just don’t have the
draw they used to. When they’re done right, they can still be
pretty exciting, and that makes it a little sad when they seem to be closing across the
country. Here’s the real reason buffet-style dining
is disappearing. Millennials might be changing the nation’s
eating habits, but what about the section of the market that buffets are still targeting,
the seniors? There’s a lot for older customers to love
about the self-service style of a buffet, but according to QSR, there’s been a massive
shift in what that generation is looking for in a restaurant, too. They say today’s seniors are much more health-conscious
than previous generations, and that they’re well aware of just how much of an impact a
reduced-sugar, low-sodium, low-fat diet can have on their health and longevity. It’s such a big shift that experts say it’ll
continue as the nation’s population gets increasingly older, and that means they’re going to get
farther and farther away from buffets and their gluttonous image. When you go out to eat with your friends and
family, which do you prefer: a meal that’s been cooked-to-order and is exactly how you
requested, or something that was cooked hours ago and transferred to a dish to keep warm? Not having fresh-cooked food that’s made to
order is a deal-breaker for many people, and it’s a completely understandable one. According to The Hartman Group, a large percentage
of diners consider “fresh” to be the “most valued quality distinction marker,” and that
section of the market is going to increase. Bord Bia found that around half of diners
make adjustments to dishes that are on the menu, and at a buffet, what you see is what
you get. According to ReviewTrackers, 6 in 10 people
head to the internet to look at reviews before investing, and a whopping 94 percent of those
people say that negative reviews online have steered them away from a business. According to Yelp, about 68 percent of their
reviews are 5 or 4-stars, while only about 23 percent are 2 or 1-star. That means those low reviews stand out, a
lot, and what does that mean for buffets? Do a quick search, and you’ll find there’s
an almost overwhelming number of buffets rated and reviewed, and most are in that 23 percent. Considering most of the bad reviews come with
photos of the unappetizing food, is it any wonder people are being dissuaded from these
places? Dinnertime staples like Old Country Buffet
aren’t the only buffets reevaluating things, and hotel breakfast buffets are also taking
a good, long look at not just how profitable they are, but how wasteful they are. It’s worse than you might think, and according
to Forbes, a typical breakfast buffet throws away around half the food that’s put out. That’s an unthinkable amount of waste, and
the problem really only came to light in 2017. That’s when the Hyatt Regency Orlando’s executive
chef Lawrence Eells opened their kitchen to a team of researchers that looked at just
how efficient their buffets were, and the answer was pretty much, “Not efficient at
all.” The New York Times said they also found that
only about 10 to 15 perfect of buffet leftovers were re-purposed, and the rest was just thrown
away. Eells, who oversaw around 5,000 buffet-centric
events each year, was shocked by the findings, calling the problem an “eye-opener beyond
belief.” All that wasted food isn’t just contributing
to America’s staggering food waste problem, it’s money down the drain for buffets that
are already struggling. Buffets are all hurting, but hardest hit has
been Ovation Brands & Buffets Inc. They put all their eggs in one basket, so
to speak, and when they struggled, that led to closing hundreds of restaurants. Behind the closure of HomeTown Buffet, Ryan’s,
Old Country Buffet, and Country Buffet was a huge amount of debt. According to CNBC, the parent company had
the dubious honor of declaring bankruptcy for an unprecedented third time in 2016, and
they had previously filed Chapter 11 in 2008 and 2012. Let’s start with 2008: just two years prior,
they had made purchases that made them the largest buffet chain in the US. When they filed for bankruptcy, they wrote
off 626 locations and more than $700 million in debt. In 2012, they dumped 494 locations and $245
million in debt, according to Business Wire. And in 2016, another 300+ locations were impacted,
and the company had more than $100 million in liabilities. That adds up to 1,420 locations and over $1
billion in debt. Those are mind-numbing numbers.

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