Casino Buffets Are a Thing of the Past – Or Are They?

It sure looks like casino buffets were a thing of the past a year ago. New England’s Casino buffets are still closed. But during the pandemic, variations were experimented with behind the plexiglass. And now we find some buffets are returning.

What is the State of the Casino Buffet?

COVID Closes Them Down

Across the country, casino gambling has expanded to over 1000 casinos. The old “chuck wagon” presence of the buffet was always a strong piece of the culinary offerings.

But, COVID-19 restrictions cut deeply into the casino buffets tradition. Out of nine casinos in New England, four had buffets. All are closed to the public as properties decide what to do.

Will the Casino Buffet Survive?

Encore Boston Harbor Buffet Entrance - Gone for Good
The Wicked Spoon – one of the best buffets on the strip, located at the Cosmopolitan.

Recently, I’ve noticed that casino buffets might be making a come-back. Casino buffets are opening up in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. But, in New England, the buffets at Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods, Encore Boston Harbor, and Hollywood Bangor are still not open to the public.

  • Encore Boston Harbor is rumored to be re-purposing that space for the future of a sportsbook. However, the Encore Buffet will not return, according to Encore officials.
  • Mohegan Sun has been using its Seasons Buffet as a Covid testing and vaccination area.
  • Foxwoods has been using its Rainmaker Buffet for employee meals.
  • Hollywood Bangor’s Epic Buffet continues to be closed.

VIP lounges that are open in Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun offer a small buffet. Both are now self-serve, with many items pre-packaged. Could this be a sign of things to come?

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What’s the Purpose of the Casino Buffet?

Most buffets are in the service of keeping people in the hotel, gambling, and drinking. Although there are some high-end buffets, it’s probably fair to say that the primary target for many buffets is people who are low to middle rollers in town for the total ambiance of the Las Vegas experience.

In the 1930s and ’40s, Las Vegas became a destination with legalized gambling and easy divorce laws. New casinos quickly sprouted up, and with them came the infamous “chuckwagon,” or buffet. The purpose was to lure all visitors, cowboys, divorces, and gamblers of all types to enter their casino doors.

The fixed-price all-you-can-eat midnight feast proved to be a roaring success. Casino operators quickly adopted the model all over town – the famous Las Vegas Buffet was born.

Las Vegas Leads the Way

Darren Tristano, the CEO, and founder of Food Service Results, said this Covid crisis didn’t necessarily spell the buffet’s end as a concept. Still, he thought many would close for good.

“The competition for takeout and off-premise food is very high. Buffets just aren’t designed to be that convenient.” 

Darren Tristano, the CEO, and founder of Food Service Results

Well, this old Vegas dining tradition that many thought might be sidelined forever has reemerged has slowly reappeared.

South Point Casino led the way, reopening its Garden Buffet on July 1, 2020, with reduced capacity and staff serving food. It returned to 100% capacity and self-serve on June 1, 2021.

In 2021, Cosmopolitan’s Wicked Spoon, which even pre-pandemic mostly focused on serving food prepared on small plates, reopened on March 25. Caesars Bacchanal Buffet opened May 20 with dim sum carts that roam the dining room. Circus Circus and the MGM Grand have reopened their respective buffets as well.

Two Issues May Slow The Opening of Other Casino Buffets

Casinos all over the country may be struggling with bringing their buffet back.

challenges getting ingredients and some alcoholic beverages disrupted supply chains. Reservations at restaurants are still a must these days. And with the bulk of items offered at buffets, you might see a slightly limited menu than expected if they open.

Then, there’s the issue of staffing. Some still have child care issues related to the pandemic. Some have moved on to positions that offer more stability. Others don’t feel safe returning.

Some Las Vegas companies have closed their buffets for good, such as Stations Casinos.

Related Post – 2021 Las Vegas Buffets

Would You Eat at a Buffet Like They Used to Be Right Now?

It is not hard to understand why casinos all over the country are hesitant to go back to pre-pandemic buffets operations. From a pure health perspective, buffets are more of a liability than traditional dining options. The proximity of guests waiting in lines, the handling of serving utensils by numerous patrons, and the sheer volume of customers are all concerning factors.

“I think it’s going to be a long time before customers are willing to eat at buffets, where they’re grabbing food from pans that other people have been grabbing food from.” 

Caesars Entertainment’s CEO Thomas Reeg 

Summary

While buffets in New England stay closed, we are still grateful for the memoriesBuffets have been an important part of the American food landscape, from those special family get-togethers to the quick break of good food before the next gambling session.

Thanks for the memories.

Binbin

NETimeGambling.com


Binbin and NETimeGambling.com

Miguel, Binbin, and Bert – The NETG Staff

Robin T. Aubin (AKA Binbin at NETimeGambling) has been a guest on Cousin VitVito’ssino Podcast, The Bettor Life Podcast, The Art in the Game Podcast Springfield, Massachusetts. as well as ZorkCast with Michael Trager. In 2013, he created NETimeGambling.com. The mission was to provide a resource for recreational gamblers visiting New England’s expanding casino market events. We offer trip reports, gambling tips, casino promotions, entertainment, and more for those visiting our nine casinos.

NETG also provides general gambling tips for those recreational gamblers inside and outside the northeast.

As a professional musician for over 50 years, Robin has performed at Mohegan Sun’s Wolf Den, Foxwoods’ Atrium Lounge, and Twin River’s Lighthouse Bar & Lounge.

Follow us on Twitter at @NETimeGambling, and on Facebook at NETimegambling. And subscribe to our new podcast, The New England Casino and Gambling Podcast which is also available on YouTube.

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3 comments

  1. So true. And it took as long or as short a time you wanted. I hope you have a safe and happy thanksgiving.

  2. These buffets were amazing, but you’re right. I think they’re history. I don’t think we’ll ever find a better selection for a better price 🙁

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