I have worked in Retail for 17 years, owned a couple of small businesses and now I am currently a registered ICU nurse of 19 years. I am an avid observer of human nature and have been told that I like taking on lost causes and fixing things. I don’t know if that is true, but maybe they are right, because here I am trying to help restaurants and buffets. I recently discovered that Sweet Tomatoes was not going to open back up. They are a restaurant based on the soup and salad bar model. This is a shame, the have 95 locations located throughout the country. I found out who the CEO was and tried to contact him. The group he is associated with, never got back in touch with me. So I have decided to make my ideas public, in the hopes that it will help more restaurants to open and become more profitable. These tips will work with any buffet restaurant or combination restaurant. First of all, you should check every patron’s temperature and ask them a few basic questions. Have hand sanitizers at the entrance of the restaurant, so there hands will be clean at least. Have all employees wear masks, all food prep people wear mask, surgical caps and gloves. The photo I posted with this article shows restaurant booths. I believe the best model for restaurants is to predominantly use booths. You can divide each booth with a sheet of Plexiglass from the top of the booth to the ceiling. This would allow more tables to be present. You could actually use all the booths shown in this photo by utilizing this technique. As long as the walkway separation is at least 6 feet apart, you are good. The use of paper menus has taken care of the re-handling of menus issue, using packets of condiments takes care of another problem.
Now I am going to discuss how to keep the Buffet open. The solution is very simple, rope the area off, and only allow one way traffic with one entrance and one exit. Years ago sneeze guards were mandated for all salad bars. That is great, it works just fine for the covid model friendly buffet. Plates and dishes are already one use, and are picked up at the table after each use. Also have the silverware wrapped and placed at each table. You will use the same silverware for the whole meal. Don’t have the silverware at the buffet itself. The tongs are the next problem, everybody uses the same tongs. Stop that practice, and place next to the plates, one use tongs and soup ladles. You use the same ones while you are selecting your food. When you are done, drop them in a collection bucket for sanitation. It would be even better if you could get disposable tongs, if cheap enough, probably not likely, though.
The solution is simple and elegant, it uses many practices that are already in place. By using booths with Plexiglass dividers you are able to have a much greater number of diners in your restaurant at a time. I hope these tips are helpful.