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Lodge Buffets Have Returned and Evolved

Holiday Inn properties such as the Holiday Inn & Suites Atlanta Perimeter Dunwoody offer a revised breakfast buffet. (IHG Hotels & Resorts)


Gluten-free of charge avocado toast. Arms-free pancake makers. Breakfast “in the round” rather of on the buffet line.

As these new innovations in the self-service method to supplying hotel meals make very clear, the pandemic-pushed demise of the hotel buffet that was predicted by a lot of has not arrive to move. In lots of circumstances, buffets are flourishing, and supervisors have normally stepped up the top quality even as they seek out efficiencies.

Operators and analysts vary about the extent to which buffets disappeared all through the peak of the pandemic, but there is no doubt they were being drastically impacted in frequency and in format. Richard Garcia, senior vice president of foodstuff and beverage at Remington Hotels, said though a lot of friends ended up apprehensive about making use of the buffet throughout the peak of the pandemic, buffets ended up perfectly-gained once they ended up modified for basic safety, which eased staffing troubles though nonetheless supplying effortless food items possibilities for guests.

Adam Crocini, senior vice president and world wide head, food and beverage, at Hilton, said teams had been pushed to “rethink and reimagine” the services and experiences provided at inns, ensuing in a change towards grab-and-go alternatives and technologies that equally drove efficiencies and amplified ease and comfort for friends. That bundled the use of QR codes and fork out-and-deliver foods ordeals as Hilton acknowledged guest choices for hassle-free and contactless answers.

Chris Lorino, senior vice president of operations for lodge administration corporation 1st Hospitality, mentioned that for the duration of the pandemic buffet availability was dependent upon point out and area restrictions, earning the dining decision a “very fluid, continuously modifying factor of the organization.”

John Bonds, senior vice president of business possibilities and know-how for Selection Lodges International, said when the market moved away from buffets thanks to overall health and hygiene fears, the operator’s midscale and upper-midscale brands provided different breakfast selections centered on occupancy, forecast guest demand and staffing amounts. Complimentary breakfast and market choices offered stability for friends, most of whom ended up crucial workers this kind of as touring nurses.

Whilst buffets did vanish to a wonderful extent, James Samson, president of consulting company Samson Hospitality, claimed resort buffets began returning in the middle of 2021 with “a heightened condition of awareness” — including more sneeze guards, necessary experience masks, hand sanitizers, pre-packaged silverware and to-go plates.

As for meetings and banquets, even in the course of the pandemic, some groups continued to request buffets, said Devin Burns, vice president of rooms and food items and beverage at Omni Accommodations & Resorts.

In these cases, Omni adopted distinct “Safe and Clean” protocols including food stuff basic safety shields around all shows, all specific food products specifically packaged and sealed and no self-serve food items or drink items, Burns mentioned. In addition, team wore masks and gloves and adopted comprehensive protection techniques as outlined by the Centers for Ailment Control and nearby authorities.


Just after about a 12 months of buffets getting removed or changed by pre-wrapped foodstuff products and other substitutions, buffets started to creep again by mid-2021. And a 12 months afterwards, buffets had been again in force with modifications — some involving security, but typically close to evolving visitor preferences.

Anthony Langan, vice president of meals and beverage at lodge administration business Charlestowne Accommodations, said buffets commenced to return with modifications this kind of as pre-plated meals, independently wrapped merchandise or attendant-facilitated company as a substitute of self-assistance.

Most operations took extra ways, like using bodily obstacles to designate entry and exit points, making use of floor markers for social distancing, or implementing touchless technology, Langan stated.

Centered on exploration indicating it was time to provide again the sizzling breakfast buffet, Selection revised its breakfast necessities in the spring of 2022 with the return of the total, complimentary breakfast bars tailored by its brands, Bonds reported.


Buffets have been evolving considering that in advance of the pandemic, but experts claimed the crisis served as an accelerant. Bjorn Hanson, adjunct professor at New York College College of Expert Studies’ Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, explained even the term “buffet” is generally remaining replaced with “self-assistance” since of the alterations to the classic thought.

With the return of journey, 1 of the greatest improvements was what the hotel breakfast would glimpse like, claimed Stephanie Atiase, global manufacturer head for Holiday Inn Convey. The brand conducted pilot applications to superior realize how company would love an tailored practical experience — resulting in a revamped menu to contain far more wide range.

Longtime favorites — together with the pancake machine and cinnamon roll station — were preserved, Atiase said. But given shifting visitor tastes, the brand name has put an additional emphasis on supplying a large selection that involves Greek yogurt, clean fruit and oatmeal with toppings.

Langan claimed where by a house may possibly after have relied exclusively on a common, self-assistance buffet, other alternatives are ever more frequent, these as pre-plated choices or obtaining an attendant make a plate and provide it to a table or deliver it to a guest space.

Other adjustments include things like obtaining dining team refresh food stuff merchandise much more often and, when probable, offer fresh-manufactured solutions like omelets and pancakes, Garcia explained. When visitors can see their foodstuff geared up, it will help them experience safer, he extra. To make sure significantly less make contact with at the beverage station, Remington pivoted to delivering beverages to tables.

Utensil swapping, sanitation stations and pre-packaged objects are far more of a concentration for Initially Hospitality Group’s hotels, Lorino explained. Greater-touch service — these types of as pouring coffee for visitors and passing hors d’oeuvres — are extra distinguished than the “stations” and “grazing tables” that prevailed in the past.

Samson said the pandemic spurred inns to experiment with how points could be carried out far more proficiently. It was “a time to reset and reorganize buffets to make things a lot easier for the staff” — this kind of as linen-significantly less tables and buffet setups that did not have to be broken down and reassembled all the time.

Still, Samson claimed food items displays have to look wonderful.

“We’re in the business enterprise of setting up ordeals,” Samson explained, and that indicates remaining aesthetically satisfying. Friends have phones, he included, “and if you can sharpen up the illustrations or photos they take of your buffets that’s a promoting device that resorts can showcase. “

At IHG Motels & Resorts’ Avid Inns model, Vice President Karen Gilbride said all properties present a “Good All Round” breakfast with rotating scorching day by day options like handheld egg-white omelets, egg bites and sandwiches. In addition, friends have easy solitary-serve solutions like granola bars, yogurt, muffins and fruit that can be very easily taken on the go.

On the style entrance, the Avid brand name learned that developing a round breakfast screen — a circular display screen of food stuff things centrally located in the home — reduced strains as visitors felt empowered to stroll up and get what they wanted.

Hilton has witnessed cold espresso beverages, especially nitro and chilly brew espresso, become ever more well known, Crocini reported. Likewise, it’s been equally crucial for accommodations to provide option milk selections, this kind of as oat or almond milk.

Final summertime, Holiday Inn, released a brand name-new breakfast buffet with upgraded main products — such as decadent French toast, herb breakfast potatoes and thick-lower bacon — and launched in-dwelling refreshing-baked pastries, in addition to rotating regional favorites these as a New York bagel breakfast sandwich and a breakfast burrito.

Holiday break Inn Vice President Raul Ortiz reported the system is staying put in in far more inns every day, and those with the new model are outscoring other attributes in breakfast satisfaction.


Though banquet and conference buffets might have been most afflicted, buffet services is essentially again to 99% pre-pandemic normalcy, Lorino said, but First Hospitality Team proceeds to be cognizant of how it displays food stuff, maintains temperatures, spaces tables and works by using utensils. There has been a slight hesitancy amid bigger teams to aspect buffets, he claimed, but smaller groups, especially company, like the flexibility and price.

Samson explained there is a great deal much more target on healthy alternatives for meetings, like avocado toast on gluten-totally free bread, acai bowls and grain bowls. Meeting planners, in certain, are keen to pay back a lot more for that improvement. He explained his clients’ banquet pricing is up near to 25% in the very last two yrs, and there is small pushback on the maximize.

Petr Raba, vice president of conferences and functions and worldwide functions for U.S. and Canada at Marriott Worldwide, claimed there will always be a will need for buffet-style services in the banquet ecosystem for the reason that it lets inns to offer you a broad variety of decisions in a structure that can expedite services.

Raba mentioned prospects are eager to return to in-human being conferences and activities but with “elevated expectations.” The use of outside destinations and formerly underutilized lounges and shops continues to be well-liked, permitting for extended overall flexibility for foods stations and buffets.

Steve Enselein, senior vice president of events for Hyatt Accommodations Corp., said the enterprise is seeing much more conferences with evolving buffet shows. Many planners select to established up particular person stations, these types of as meat carving, pasta, fish and salad, instead than a basic buffet, in particular all through night occasions.

Enselein said Hyatt has also viewed greater use of particular person portions of charcuterie developed and positioned on the buffet in advance.


Buffets are not immune from the prevailing tendencies of community and sustainable merchandise.

“We are winning if we can link them to the neighborhood group via our food and beverage choices,” Garcia reported.

Crocini stated 32% of visitors surveyed claimed they will prioritize regionally sourced foods and beverage in 2023. Although morning dishes such as avocado toast, grain bowls and smoothies are new to the resort foodstuff scene, company now expect these more healthy things. An enhanced desire in healthier food items and beverage choices has also prompted Homewood Suites by Hilton to substitute 80% of the large-calorie products and solutions these types of as soda, chips and cookies with more nutrient-wealthy and wellness-minded selections.

As for sustainability, Lorino said resort employees are centered on replenishing and making ready only what is necessary employing induction warmers versus fuel heaters that get discarded to landfills and applying biodegradable plates, cups, straws and stirrer products and solutions when doable.


Inspite of continuing worker shortages, most hotel executives have not noticed staffing as a large problem driving buffets. Pre-pandemic, Remington employed far more labor for buffets, but which is since managers have discovered ways to be much more productive, Garcia stated. Reducing menu objects, in particular, places significantly less stress on the kitchen and enables a improved encounter and a much more steady providing.

For Initially Hospitality Group, Lorino stated staffing issues are not influencing buffets at all. The intention, he included, “is to execute from what our visitors and customers want, no matter if which is a personal event or a complimentary featuring as component of a brand regular.”

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