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 experimented 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?
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 a lot of the 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.
One reason is disrupted supply chains that have caused challenges getting ingredients and some alcoholic beverages. Reservations at restaurants are a must due to this. 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
Atlantic City – Smoking Yes, Buffets No
According to David Danzis at NJGamblingSites, unlike indoor smoking, which has been approved, Atlantic City casinos do not appear eager to bring back buffets. “New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy lifted the COVID-19 prohibition on buffets last month. Still, no AC gambling parlors have reopened the full all-you-can-eat dining option.” But, Danzis continues, “Uncertainty about consumer behaviors and high costs means most casino operators are going to be very strategic in bringing them back. If they do at all.”
But the biggest reason why casino operators may be reluctant to bring back buffets is that the high cost of labor and the financial loss on wasted products means they are not moneymakers. As a result, casino operators said that buffets would not be part of their long-term strategies after the pandemic.
“From our standpoint, we’ve been vocal in the past that buffets are an inefficient way to market to customers,” Caesars Entertainment’s CEO Thomas Reeg said last year. “They’re very costly; you lose a lot of money there.”
As far as we know, Borgata and Hard Rock AC are the only casino buffets available.
While buffets in New England stay closed, we are still grateful for the memories. From those special family get-togethers to the quick break of good food before the next gambling session, buffets have been an important part of the American food landscape.
Thanks for the memories.
Binbin and NETimeGambling.com
Robin T. Aubin (AKA Binbin at NETimeGambling) has been a guest on Cousin Vito’s Casino Podcast, The Bettor Life Podcast, The Art in the Game Podcast Springfield, Massachusetts. as well as ZorkCast with Michael Trager.As the founder of NETimeGambling. He has tried to provide a resource for recreational gamblers featuring New England’s expanding casino market events, gambling promotions, and entertainment. Additionally, as a professional musician for over 50 years, he has performed in some New England’s best venues, namely Mohegan Sun’s Wolf Den, Foxwoods’ Atrium Lounge, and Twin River’s Lighthouse Bar & Lounge.
The goal of NETimeGambling is to provide a service and resource for any recreational gambler visiting New England’s expanding casino market and interested in gambling tips, news, advice, and the latest in events, gambling promotions, and entertainment.
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