Scott Hardie | May 13, 2020
Years ago, I trashed the salad buffet chain Sweet Tomatoes on this website, after misinterpreting a staffer's mildly insensitive attempt to make conversation as some kind of corporate psychological manipulation. I should have applied Hanlon's razor, and I have regretted my embarrassing paranoia ever since. I've had several decent meals there over the years, at multiple locations.

Anyway, today I read that the entire chain is closing permanently. And it's the reason cited that worries me:

"The FDA had previously put out recommendations that included discontinuing self-serve stations, like self-serve beverages in fast food, but they specifically talked about salad bars and buffets," John Haywood, CEO of Garden Fresh, the parent company of Sweet Tomatoes and its sister buffet chain Souplantation, said in an interview with the Union-Tribune. "The regulations are understandable, but unfortunately, it makes it very difficult to reopen. And I’m not sure the health departments are ever going to allow it."
That... that "ever" is something that I had not considered.

There has been talk about what the future will look like after COVID-19 has passed but other pandemics become more frequent, like face masks becoming a common sight in public and face-touching becoming a social taboo. Will one change in the future be the end of self-service food stations and buffets? I can see some buffets operating in the future with servers manning each station so that you don't touch anything yourself, but that would mean no small amount of remodeling for most of them out there now.

Do you think this is the end of buffets as we know it?


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