FDA warns against buffet and self-serving stations in restaurants
Sweet Tomatoes, a Southwest Florida chain that has been operating for 23 years, is permanently closing 97 of its restaurants. Popular restaurant chain Souplantation, the sister restaurant of Sweet Tomatoes, may close its doors for good. POC American Fusion, a pan-Asian buffet, is converting to a takeout and delivery restaurant.
Buffets and other self-serving stations may be a thing of the past. Although the FDA had previously announced recommendations specifically targeting salad bars and buffets, many restaurant owners feel that while the regulations are understandable and necessary, it will make it difficult to reopen businesses. The FDA stated that self-serving stations like self-serve beverages in fast food would be discontinued.
With the closure of Southern California’s Souplantation chain and Sweet Tomatoes, over 4,000 employees will lose their job, as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune.
In South Florida, dining will look very different moving forward. Diners will be required to wear masks and tables will need to be set six feet apart. Restaurants whose model was based on customers serving themselves are forced to pivot in a new direction in order to survive. With Miami-Dade County looking to reopen within the coming weeks, many buffets are trying to operate as delivery and takeout establishments.
Other buffets are retraining staff and chefs to cook in smaller batches and for personal or family-style portions. Once guidelines are final, they plan on reopening as a traditional restaurant. One restaurant that is following this model is POC in Coral Gables.
The coronavirus has left many businesses and retailers on edge over the past few months. Most have been shut down to curb the spread of the virus, and sadly, some businesses won’t be coming back once a reopening is issued.
By: Maytinee Kramer