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After a pandemic lull, buffets are seeing a rise in popularity

In the spring of 2023, foot traffic at three of the largest buffet chains was up 125% compared to January 2021.
Posted at 9:36 AM, Jul 26, 2023

Instead of spending $20 or $30 for a meal at a restaurant, a growing number of people are now returning to budget-friendly buffets.

It's quite a change from just two years ago when many buffet-style restaurants were forced to close during the pandemic. 

Tim Branham visits Golden Corral, one of the nation's biggest buffet chains, several times a week.

"You can hit the bluebird special for $10.99," he said.

He also loves the ever-changing menu.

"I like the variety. Anything you want, you got it on the counter here," he said.

Al Cherry appreciates the price and the quality.

"The variety of food that you are able to get, for the price you are able to get it for, is really good," he said.

Rising demand

Dr. David Corsun, director of the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver, says demand for buffets is climbing because so many didn't survive the pandemic.

"Some of that is driven by less supply in the marketplace," Corsun said.

In the spring of 2023, foot traffic at three of the largest buffet chains, Golden Corral, Cici's Pizza and Pizza Ranch, was up 125% compared to January 2021, according to Placer.ai, which compiled a report on the restaurants. They also outperformed comparable fast-casual and full-service restaurants during the same time period.

Frequent diner James Barnard says if you long for the "good old days" of delicious desserts and home cooking, you can find it at a buffet.

"They even serve chicken and dumplings or pork chops every now and then," he said.

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