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#foodbeast Culture FOODBEAST Opinion Restaurants The Katchup

5 New Things You’ll See At Buffets As They Re-Open

The bounty of a buffet has always been the crux of its appeal: all-you-can-eat, get your money’s worth, it’s the American way. Whether it be the high end flourish of a Las Vegas buffet or the comforts of a local Hometown Buffet or Golden Corral, folks have always used the linchpin of a seemingly unending feast to maximize their dining experience. Yet 2020’s pandemic has crippled the restaurant industry, and with the restrictive nature of the new norms, the buffet concept has fallen victim to it.

With social distancing and forcibly limited dining capacities being implemented as the U.S. slowly reopens different segments of business, the future that buffets face has been bleak. Dwindling interest among millennials pre-pandemic already had buffets trying to steer themselves into relevancy by experimenting with different models. But a covid-19 reality these days has universally constrained restaurants, forcing them to take-out and delivery options only, a pivot that doesn’t fit the model of a buffet at all, though places like Golden Corral and Old Country buffet have turned to them for their survival.

However, the challenges the pandemic has brought on buffets have been insurmountable to some, namely the company Garden Fresh Restaurants, owner of AYCE salad bar concepts Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, who recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

In the latest episode of Foodbeast’s The Katchup Podcast, hosts Elie Ayrouth and Geoff Kutnick, along with myself, wax poetic and eulogize just how much Souplantation meant to them, while also exploring the immediately unfortunate prospects buffets have post-pandemic.

Though Souplantaion and Sweet Tomatoes did not decide to give it a go at pivoting to new business models to keep afloat, other buffets have turned to such alternatives, all with varying results. The following are a number of adjustments they’ve done just to survive. Which begs the question: Would Garden Fresh Restaurants have been able to stick around if they tried to maneuver with the times as well?

Cafeteria-Style

Big buffet chain, Golden Corral, has been slowly reopening locations across the country with a new cafeteria-style service model. So think restaurant employees directly serving diners menu items at what otherwise would have been various buffet stations. Also, stanchions are set up as a perimeter around buffet areas, with floor markers indicating where customers can stand safely away from one another. This model also eliminates the prospect of multiple diners touching utensils at once.

Take-Out

Take-out has been the new standard these past couple of months for restaurants to survive. A reliance on third-party delivery apps and their exorbitant fees have proved to be difficult for restaurants to deal with, yet has been enough to keep them afloat, a conundrum in itself that’s brought on separate ethical discussions on the business practices of these apps. Curbside pick-up has also been a helpful option for diners to enjoy their offerings through modified menus designed to coincide with the efficiency of the pick-up.

Family-Style

In this service model, servers treat customers to an “endless buffet” from a selection of menu items. What immediately comes to mind to compare to this would be Brazilian steakhouses, also known as churrascarrias, such as Fogo De Chao, who serve a constant of meats until the diner indicates to stop via a red coaster flipped up. Turning it over to the green side tells servers that they’re welcome to offer more meats to the customer.

Different Payment Options

Before the pandemic, Golden Corral tried to address the waning interest millenials had in buffets by dabbling with different pay systems, namely dropping the pay-one-price model. Further, it was being tested where customers pay at their table, while also being offered three buffet options: soup and salad only, a single trip to the food bar, or unlimited trips. Could experimenting with different pay systems work even better in post-pandemic dining?

Stay As-Is

Fifteen locations of Golden Corral have opted to stick with the old service model. They plan on adhering to the traditional buffet format with an implementation of rigorous cleaning standards and other precautions such as adding hand sanitizing stations and checking diners’ temperatures before being seated. It’s worth noting that 12 of the 15 locations sticking to the original buffet model are in Florida.

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Hit-Or-Miss

Former Souplantation Manager’s Creepy Craigslist Ad For A Coachella Date Gets Deleted

With the recent news of Souplantation’s parent company, Sweet Tomatoes, filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and rumors that some locations could close, it’s safe to say some employees are looking for a way out.  Well, one such former employee has made it clear that he’s clearly over his managerial role at the all-you-can-eat chain and is set on, “JUST FUN,” from now on.

Gordon, as he calls himself in a recently posted Craigslist ad — which has now been flagged for removal — is looking to attend Coachella with a, “travel companion.”

In his ad, the newly divorced 56-year-old former Supervising Manager at Souplantation from West Covina explained that after 11 years of marriage, he recently quit his job, cashed out his 401K, and wants to party — beginning with a fun-filled VIP experience during Weekend 2 of Coachella 2017.

Here’s an image of the now deleted ad.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-3-20-50-pm

Gordie’s Craigslist ad seemed innocent enough at first, but quickly transitioned into a creepy, slightly questionable solicitation for a 19 to 25-year-old female with a, “(#3) … fashionable sense of style in the vein of typical coachella goer (i.e. cute indian headband, small ripped jean shorts, lots of colorful bracelets, etc),” who should be willing to follow a 20-point checklist of semi-repulsive requests during the the four-day weekend together.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-3-37-44-pm

While Gordon’s first few rules aren’t that disturbing, things quickly progress into the transgressive realm, starting with stipulation #5.

5. Must keep hands and feet moisturized at all times.

Um, sure?

As the list grows, Gordon’s requests started to shadow a deep sense of fetishism and obsessiveness, not to mention some were borderline demanding.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-3-50-43-pm

Rule #10 was especially critical: Being social is fine but no excessive fraternizing with other male festival-goers, and most definitely NO PUBLIC AFFECTION with other festival-goers (violation of this rule results in immediate removal of Tropic Motor Motel room privileges and maybe even return ride).

So, your guest isn’t supposed to interact with other people at a festival? Why not just watch it online?

Here comes the heavier stuff. Take a breath.

Rule #11 states, “Periodic moments of extended eye contact.”

Wut?

Rule #12 is pretty much where it all started going south.

12. Allow me to brush your hair once per day (not mandatory, but encouraged).

Huh? Why?

Gordon’s not done there. The list continues with awkward requests that seem to showcase a slightly voyeuristic personality, mixed with slight delusion.

For example, rule #15 stated, “Any personal grooming such as toenail clipping, eyebrow plucking or lipstick application must be done in my presence.”

It’s called personal grooming for a reason, Gordon!  Can’t we just go watch Beyonce?!

There’s really no explanation for the rest of his requests, but hey, here we go.

#17. At least twice during the festival you must tell me in a playful manner that “I am naughty.”

Nope.

#18. At some point in time during the festival you must tell me that, “you didn’t know how this would go, but you’re actually having a really good time.”

Why would I lie?

Rule 19 is probably is by far the creepiest request:

19. At least once during our stay after your shower, you must use the steam to write a cute message on the bathroom mirror for me to find later when I shower.

Does, “HELP ME!!!!” count?

Lastly, Gordon’s just there to have a sweet-ass time and just wants you to have a blast, as long as you’re not in violation of the 8,500,000 set of rules he has established.

20.  Must be ready to party and HAVE FUN.

It’s easy to see why this ad was removed, but still, it’s only fair that we hope Gordon meets the, “right one.” But, perhaps he should do so under some less invasive, and more moderately acceptable circumstances.

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Restaurants

Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes Offer 15 Take-Home Holiday Items

Looking for fresh, made-from-scratch foods this holiday season, but running low on time? All-you-care-to-eat restaurants Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes are easing that burden off your shoulders by offering 15 holiday take-home items. From now until November 19, you can order any of their Thanksgiving holiday items, which will be available for pick-up on November 22 and 23. Here’s a list of their Thanksgiving take-home items:

  • Sweet Maple Apple Tossed Salad with Caramelized Walnuts
  • Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Apples, Cranberries & Walnuts
  • Sweet Potato & Maple Cream Bake with Pecan Praline Topping
  • Available cobbler varieties: Autumn Pumpkin & Walnut, Caramel Apple, Cranberry Apple, Georgia Peach, Mixed Berry & Apple, Tart Cherry and Orchard Apple

All throughout the month of December, they will also offer another variety of take-home items for pick-up. Here’s what they have to offer:

  • Smoked Turkey & Spinach Tossed Salad
  • Turkey Chutney Pasta Salad
  • Available cobbler varieties: Caramel Apple, Cranberry Apple, Georgia Peach, Mixed Berry & Apple, Tart Cherry and Orchard Apple

Orders can be taken over the phone, online, or in the restaurants if you really want to get personal. For more information, (and depending where you go) check out the Souplantation or Sweet Tomatoes website.