#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?


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 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.


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.

Restaurants The Katchup

Restaurant Industry Hit Harder Now Than After 9/11 and Credit Crisis Combined

“If 9/11 and the credit crisis were wrapped up into one, this would still be worse,” Jonathan Maze, Editor-in-Chief of Restaurant Business Magazine said when asked about how this coronavirus pandemic is affecting the U.S. restaurant industry.

While September 11 and the Great Recession of 2008 were both devastating to the industry in their own ways, restaurants nationwide did not have to face complete shut downs the way they are now.

Even with restaurants being deemed as “essential” and allowed to stay open with several restrictions, having to move to a strictly delivery/take-out/drive-thru model is not ideal for their long term business model.

While on the Foodbeast Katchup podcast, Maze added that at best, restaurants are only getting about 20 percent of their usual revenue, while having to stockpile cash.

As far as restaurants that have closed, while they don’t have to worry about food costs or labor, they still have to think bout insurance costs, rent, loans, and any other fixed costs.

“Nobody is going to get out of this unscathed, unless you’re just doing pizza delivery, or maybe you’re Sonic,” Maze said. “A lot of restaurants are going to lose a lot of sales. Your nice restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles and in Chicago, they’re getting hammered right now.”

Getting hit the hardest are small restaurants, as many have already shuttered, and would only be able to get through this with some sort of bailout.

Maze, who has been extensively covering the effect of coronavirus on restaurants thus far, went on to say that there is a chance that restaurants can survive in the short-term, “but if this thing lasts long, if this lasts like three or four months, then you’re getting into some serious questions.”

Conversations and quotes in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast: “#113: How Coronavirus is Worse Than 9/11 For Restaurants,” out now on Spotify, the Apple Podcasts App, and most major platforms where podcasts are heard.

The Katchup

I Walked Into An Alcohol-Free Bar, Here’s What It Was Like

Photo by Brian Feinzimer/Temperance Bar

Conversations and quotes in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast: “#110: WTF is a Zero-Proof Bar?” out now on Spotify, the Apple Podcasts App, and all major platforms where podcasts are heard.

There are challenges to living a sober lifestyle in a world where the social norm is to go out for drinks, have a glass of wine with your food, have a beer while watching the game, or just having a drink because it’s Wednesday.

As you read that previous paragraph, cast your initial judgement on me, and decide if you want to further hear what a guy who doesn’t drink has to say in this article, just know that is probably a similar process for folks around me in social settings.

It all usually goes in this order:

Person offers drink, or asks what I’m drinking. I say that I don’t drink. Person tries to counter with, “You’ll be fine with one drink or one shot.” I repeat myself, this time emphasizing that I’ve never drank. Person gives befuddled look and decides whether they want to continue trying to convince me to drink or move along with others whom they feel more comfortable with at that moment.

That brings me to the peculiar new trend of zero-proof bars, where not a soul is drinking alcohol, and the entire process that I described above is kind of turned on its head.

“Zero-proof” bars were the topic at hand in an intense Foodbeast Katchup podcast conversation, as the hosts explored the budding trend, if they even make sense as a construct, and if they can actually catch fire at a large scale.

I actually had the chance to experience one of these alcohol-free bars, as Temperance Bar made its debut in Fullerton, California this January.

Full disclosure, the bar experience was put together by a friend of mine, Charisma Madarang, and her fellow co-founder Corky Nepomuceno.

Photo by Brian Feinzimer/Temperance Bar

So I went to their grand opening, and as the media made its rounds, getting their photos and videos, my first mind-bending experience occurred right as I was offered a drink.

My initial reaction to the bartender handing me a finely crafted tropical cocktail was, ‘No thank you,’ as refusing drinks at media tastings has become a reflex of mine.

Then after a few seconds of doing the mental gymnastics of what I was actually attending, it hit me that there was no alcohol in the drink, and I could actually partake for once.

That’s a pretty huge feeling for anyone who doesn’t drink, for whatever specific reason, and is usually the odd-man-out during these get-togethers.

Photo by Dominique Zamora/Temperance Bar

This whole no-booze experience was put together so that people like myself can feel comfortable in that type of setting, and it honestly worked.

The carefully curated cocktails were being mixed together by an actual bartender, which led to the next jarring experience. It felt like they were putting together an alcoholic drink.

Watching bartender Paul Joseph Piane chop up mint leaves, pour in the zero-proof distilled spirits, shake the ingredients around, and gently pour them into glasses really made me question myself, and the bar, to the point where I had to make sure to ask, ‘There’s zero alcohol in this right?’

The feeling of being in a bar was still there, and it kind of freaked me out at first. I’m sure vegans have experienced this confusing feeling to some degree, where you’ve had some type of vegan shrimp or vegan burger that gives off such similar vibes to its meaty predecessor that you can’t help but double check and ask, “This burger is vegan right?”

Photo by Dominique Zamora/Temperance Bar

The last unorthodox experience was walking out of a bar without feeling pressured, awkward, or judged by others.

As Katchup co-host Geoff Kutnick brought up in the Katchup podcast conversation:

“You shouldn’t be pressured at a bar to drink a cocktail if you don’t want to. Is it directly aimed at your character? No. But is it a comment that you have to take for that moment? Yes. And is it uncomfortable, yeah. Can it ruin a night? Absolutely.”

While the pressure to drink is something you get used to as a non-drinker like myself, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel nice to go out and not have it be an issue. And while I’ve gotten used to it, I’m sure those who struggle with sobriety would definitely appreciate the lack of tension.

Probably one of the most common questions asked at a non-alcoholic bar would be, ‘How do you justify the $7-$12 for a drink that doesn’t even have alcohol?’

To that I would answer, probably the same reason you pay a premium for an alcoholic drink that’s realistically only worth a few dollars. You pay for the ambiance. You pay for sharing your time with good people, and enjoying different flavors on your palate. You pay for the craftsmanship and care that went into that drink.

Like most, you pay for an experience you can’t get at home, and at least at zero-proof bars, you pay to feel included in a positive setting.


This Vegan Chain Is Literally Replacing Your Favorite Fast Food Locations

Conversations and quotes in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast: “#105: The First Vegan Drive-Thru,” out now on Spotify, the Apple Podcasts App, and all major platforms where podcasts are heard.

The plant-based movement has been making big shifts lately, as the thought of meatless meals have become a lot more common. One of the more ambitious moves have come from a San Diego, California-based fast food chain called Plant Power.

In 2017, Plant Power decided to fully embrace the essence of fast food and opened a location with a drive-thru. The easiest way to do that is to take over spaces that were already built for drive-thrus.


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While on the Foodbeast Katchup Podcast, Plant Power co-founder Jeffrey Harris spoke on trying to make plant-based fast food a normal thing, and doing so by taking over former meat-based fast food locations.

“There’s great poetic justice in taking over these existing meat-based restaurants,” Harris said. “We’ve already converted a Burger King. In Fountain Valley we’ve got a Carl’s Jr. converting. In Riverside we’ve got a Wienerschnitzel converting. “

Harris went on to explain how they expect Plant Power to be the first plant-based fast food restaurant to reach 100 total locations, an ambitious goal that means they’d have to jump Canadian-based Copper Branch, who already has over 60 locations, and have similar goals of expansion, according to Plant Based News.

Regardless, what Plant Power is doing in California is good for fast food, and if they keep taking over big chain locations that are closing down, it might just be telling of what is to come in the future for plant-based restaurants becoming the norm.


Coolhaus Ice Cream Plans To Release A Chocolate Taquito

“We’re working on re-inventing the Choco Taco — as a taquito.”

Once those very words were said by Coolhaus Ice Cream co-founder and CEO Natasha Case while on the latest The Katchup podcast, they became a magnet for intrigue, as evidenced by co-host Geoffrey Kutnick’s half incredulous, half excited tone when he asked, “When is the choco-taquito coming out?”

“2021,” replied Case. “We already have our innovation launching for 2020. So we have to work so far in advance of timelines because of grocery stores.”

It’s a wild concept to envision, really, reimagining a Mexican favorite as a chocolatey ice cream concoction. However that may turn out on Coolhaus’ end once the product releases remains to be seen. But that doesn’t stop us from dreaming about it until then. In fact, below is our own Foodbeast interpretation of what we think this Coolhaus chocolate taquito ice cream could be.

CoolHaus Ice Cream_Chocolate Taquito_render

Art: Sam Brosnan

As you can see in the artist rendering above, we envision a waffle cone shell rolled, filled with ice cream, and finished with a healthy layer of chocolate. Coolhaus’ version may very well be something that looks nothing like this. But one thing we are confident in is their ability to innovate well.

“So you’re just trying to reinvent the ice cream category,” observed co-host Elie Ayrouth.

“Yes, yes, yes… I want to reinvent — especially novelties, there’s so much to do. We’re gonna just grow this brand to be the household brand of our generation.”

Such dedication to product innovation and the confidence to execute it, along with a unique vision that Natasha Case encapsulated on The Katchup podcast episode, makes us look forward even more to the final result of the Coolhaus choco-taquito.

“2021, it’ll come faster than you think,” assured Case.

We’re crossing our fingers in anticipation until then.

The Katchup Theme Parks Twitch Video What's New

The Top 10 Treats To Enjoy While Visiting Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

The excitement around Disneyland’s new land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, has been building as those with reservations have gotten a chance to visit. With the park opening up to the rest of the public on June 24th, it’s bound to be packed inside, so you’ll want to get the must-do events and must-try treats done early.

Foodbeast’s own Elie Ayrouth, Bobby Navarro, and Constantine Spyrou all got to visit Galaxy’s Edge recently, and have come back with some poignant insights on the food and drinks the new land has to offer. Below are 10 of the best items that they recommend sampling while waiting to go on the Millenium Falcon ride or for your lightsaber reservation.

Carbon Freeze

The Carbon Freeze is the drink on the back left of this photo, courtesy of Disneyland.

This bubbly non-alcoholic drink comes with a rotating swirl of popping boba that makes it visually enticing. The actual flavor is fruity with a strong note of apple, and is similar to the popping boba drink you can find at Lamplight Lounge in Pixar Pier. For those looking for non boozy options, though, this is the drink to get and show off on your Instagram feeds.

Fuzzy Tauntaun

The Fuzzy Tauntaun is the yellow drink on the far right of this photo, courtesy of Disneyland.

The Fuzzy Tauntaun is guaranteed to elicit the most “WTF” reactions from anyone who samples it. It’s served with a “buzz foam” on top that may contain an extract from the Buzz Button flower, which makes your lips and tongue go numb almost immediately upon contact. It’s not a sensation you’ll find in a typical cocktail, and is worth trying at least once.

Fried Endorian Tip-Yip

Disneyland is famous for the fried chicken, and this Jenga block of poultry is a worthy addition to their lineup. It’s actually a whole piece of breast meat, not a nugget, meaning that the inside is juicy, tender, and like a good piece of roast chicken. The Peruvian-inspired herb gravy it’s served with adds a nice, piquant touch you normally don’t get with fried chicken.

Ronto Wrap

As Foodbeast’s Bobby Navarro put it in Foodbeast’s The Katchup podcast, “There’s really no grab-and-go option in Galaxy’s Edge with a lot of heft.” This is the one item that accomplishes that, with a spiced kielbasa-like sausage, a peppercorn sauce, tangy slaw, and slices of roast pork on the inside. It’s perfect to nosh on while you’re waiting in line for any of the attractions or shops.

Outpost Mix

This is easily the most colorful item inside Galaxy’s Edge, so you’ll be seeing a lot of it on Instagram feeds. The vibrant fruity purple and spicy red glazes create a unique contrast of flavors and tastes. The Outpost Mix stand is also the first place in the park where you can snag the exclusive Coca-Cola drinks that the Star Wars land has to offer, so make sure to stop by here if you want first dibs on those.

Blue Milk

For those wondering if this contains dairy, it’s actually plant-based, and is more of a sweet, tropical treat than actual milk. There’s two variations, the Blue and Green Milk, and each varies slightly in flavor. Both are made with a rice and coconut milk base, so mostly anyone can enjoy these regardless of dietary preference. This is the one everyone’s been wanting to get, and it is pretty pricey per glass ($7), yet the clean and enjoyable flavors make it worth every sip. For those who have some extra cash, getting the blue and green milk swirled together is a legit move.

T-16 Skyhopper

My personal favorite drink at Oga’s Cantina, this one reminds you of a boozy milk tea. It’s a pretty easy drink to consume, and has a creamy consistency and taste that’s a stark contrast from the other drinks at the bar.

Smoked Kaadu Ribs

Fans of barbecue will enjoy this, as the ribs hold true to barbecue flavor, but each component is twisted in a way that adds new complexities to the dish. The ribs are topped with crispy breadcrumbs and have an Asian-inspired marinade, the coleslaw is entirely pickled to give it a texture and flavor akin to sauerkraut, and the blueberry cornbread muffin makes you wonder why pairing fruit with meat isn’t the norm these days.

Mustafarian Lava Roll

While you can only get this loaded cinnamon roll for breakfast, it’s size, vibrancy, and flavor make it one to get for both the ‘gram and your morning trek. While there’s not many new sweets in the Star Wars land, this one hits it out of the park.

Ithorian Garden Loaf

We all agreed that this is the number one item to get in the park. The plant-based Garden Loaf is made with Impossible Meat, and the new 2.0 formula holds up, as the texture and flavor is 100% akin to that of meat. Combined with the mushroom sauce and creamy mashed potatoes, you’ll be hard pressed to find a difference between this and the real deal.

To view the full takes the Foodbeast crew has to offer on the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land, peep the YouTube video and Katchup podcast at the top of this article.


The Michelin Guide Dropped The Ball In Their Recognition of Los Angeles

“They really are going to have to eat their words if they want to come back and do it the right way in Los Angeles, and the truth is that they probably won’t.” Poignant commentary from Eater LA Senior Writer Farley Elliott regarding the Michelin Guide’s return to Los Angeles. He made these comments along with other critical insights on the guide in a recent appearance on the Foodbeast podcast, The Katchup, predicting how its renewed recognition of the Los Angeles dining scene would more than likely fall flat in representing the city appropriately.

“If they don’t put a San Gabriel Valley restaurant on there, if they don’t put a taco truck on there and give one of these places that are everyday dining options a star, people like you are just going to continue to laugh it off and rightfully so,” declared Elliott on the podcast. And you know what? Once I heard the results of the starred winners earlier this week, I did laugh, albeit ironically. Because as Farley predicted, the Michelin Guide did come back to Los Angeles and they did drop the ball on representing the city correctly.

Now this is no knock on the restaurants earning their deserved stars and Bib Gourmands, nor is it deflecting the recognition and merit. But the Michelin Guide really had an opportunity to highlight just how unique and diverse Los Angeles’ culinary landscape is these days, yet instead stuck to their antiquated model that favored European fine dining and expensive sushi restaurants. The high price points of the starred winners were — surprise, surprise — the commonality they had between them.

Perhaps it’s simply the Michelin Guide having to adjust and familiarize themselves with the sui generis dining nature of Angelenos. And judging by the disappointment the city’s major food media outlets expressed over the results, they’ll probably get the hint. Hopefully. Because when Angelenos look to dine out, some nights it will look like delicious Spanish fare at Otoño followed by boba in Koreatown then capped off with a late night snack at taco stands like Avenue 26. Other nights it will look like a posh tasting menu at Kato, which then wraps up at beloved taco truck Mariscos Jalisco. It’s L.A., we’re the masters of high-low.

Make no mistake, I’m encouraged that Los Angeles is recognized by an authority such as the Michelin Guide as a legit dining destination. But does it validate the city’s legitimacy as an exciting and bona fide food city? Not one bit. Yet, with the guide’s return comes added revenue and awareness, which I’m hopeful is a step in the right direction towards Thai restaurants, Filipino restaurants, Korean Restaurants and other deserving dining destinations that reflect how Angelenos dine regularly, being awarded appropriately in next year’s Michelin Guide for California.


For a full list of Michelin-starred winners in Los Angeles, they’re as follows:


  • Bistro Na’s
  • CUT
  • Dialogue
  • Hayato
  • Kali
  • Kato
  • Le Comptoir
  • Maude
  • Mori Sushi
  • Nozawa Bar
  • Orsa & Winston
  • Osteria Mozza
  • Q Sushi
  • Rustic Canyon
  • Shibumi
  • Shin Sushi
  • Shunji
  • Trois Mec


  • n/naka
  • Providence
  • Somni
  • Sushi Ginza Onodera
  • Urasawa
  • Vespertine




Culture Features The Katchup

Six Odd Ways Food Has Shaped The Modern NBA

“I’m always looking for a good story and am always looking for a way to build connections with readers and athletes. The culinary world and food, it’s one of the few things that makes us all human,” shared ESPN Senior NBA Writer, Baxter Holmes, on a recent visit to Foodbeast’s The Katchup podcast.

Holmes has been the writer behind some of the most intriguing stories in the NBA that just so happen to be food-related, uncovering fascinating anecdotes the likes of the NBA’s obsession with peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and even how San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich used extravagant dinners to build the team’s enviable camaraderie.

A hot-button discussion that strikes a chord with foodies and basketball fans alike, the following are a quick rundown of some of these compelling NBA food tales as told by Baxter Holmes.



According to Holmes, the very first food-related NBA story he wrote was on Kobe Bryant’s special bone broth that he would have before games in the latter stages of his legendary career. “I remember talking to [the Lakers’] strength and conditioning coach about everything it takes to get Kobe up and running, because he was older in his career and had a lot of injuries.” That coach mentioned that they made sure the Black Mamba got his soup of specially made bone broth before games, since the collagen in it was optimal for joint health. “They would contact hotels ahead of time to make sure hey had all the right ingredients, and [Kobe] liked it in different ways.” Father Time stays undefeated, folks.



“He was consuming so much sugar everyday. His hands were tingling because of it and he was having a hard time catching a ball.” In 2013, Dwight Howard was dealing with a serious addiction to sugar, as Holmes revealed in one story that the big man was consuming 24 chocolate bars’ worth of sugar every day — for more than a decade. It all came to a freighting head when Howard started experiencing pre-diabetic symptoms, which thankfully was a wake up call to change his diet immediately.



“I would see peanut butter & jelly sandwiches in every locker room before games and I would see them in training facilities.” This James Beard-Award winning Holmes article was a fascinating glimpse into the NBA’s secret addiction to the classic and humble sandwich. Why? Well, simply put, it’s comfort food. No hidden benefits to recovery, no special potency to aid in performance — all they wanted was a soothing memory from childhood. Kevin Garnett had to have strawberry jelly, while Damian Lillard preferred his toasted.



“He’s been into wine and food for a long time, like 50 years. And he’s been doing this with the Spurs for like 20 years.” One of Holmes’ more recent stories was an extensive revelation on how San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, with the help of his extensive knowledge of wine and food, used extravagant, Michelin-star caliber wining and dining to build camaraderie within the organization. The close-knit team culture created as a result of these dinners has translated to multiple championships and an organization-wide togetherness that’s become the envy of the entire sports world, and not just the NBA exclusively. Holmes explains, “The amount of people who were involved with the Spurs, still involved with the Spurs, they described these experiences as the backbone of the camaraderie that you would see on the court.”



“Using cranberries and Marcona almonds, Kerr was like ‘Here’s how we want to function.'” When Steve Kerr first came on board as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, he envisioned a potent offense, but hadn’t really constructed and schemed it out yet. At an airport bar, a bartender asked the new coach how the offense would run. Kerr, working with what was immediately available to him, used elements of the charcuterie board he had ordered to illustrate how players would function within his system. Four years and three championships later, the Golden State Warriors have cemented the capability of their high-octane offense predicated on ball and player movement and three-pointers galore — all of which have shaped how the modern NBA game is played today.



I think it’s safe to say that the Portland Trailblazers are coffee snobs. Nevermind the Portlandian factor, but the team’s penchant for quality coffee was documented by Holmes as a way to keep the players fresh and alert. We’re talking the team’s training and performance staff grinding beans and brewing fancy French press coffee right before the start of the game. And with the Blazers having to travel more miles over the course of a season than any other team in American professional sports, it’s understandable that their sports performance specialists become baristas right before tip-off. “They’re traveling 250 miles a day. Imagine if every single day you flew from New York to Pittsburgh — for eight months,” illustrated Holmes.