Buffet restaurants allowed to reopen, but finding self-serve options could be a challenge

Buffets have been given the green light to resume under Step 3 of Ontario's reopen plan, but self-serve options are becoming a bit harder to find as the pandemic continues.

For restaurants and customers, safety amid the virus crisis is the number one concern.

At Classic Indian in Waterloo, buffet lunches were popular pre-pandemic, but the owner is hesitant to restart self-service, citing concerns about overcrowding and shared utensils.

"With the pandemic going on, we don't see buffets happening for another one year," said owner Thiru Maran.

Meanwhile, the doors are stilled closed at the Mandarin restaurants in Kitchener and Guelph. The restaurant chain is phasing its reopening, starting with other locations first.

Lawrence Goodridge, a food safety expert and University of Guelph professor, says the important measure of physical distancing will be difficult at buffets.

"I would be concerned if buffets opened as they currently exist," he said.

But buffets that have reopened, like at King Tin restaurant in Waterloo, changes have been made.

According to a post on King Tin's Facebook page, there is a limit of three guests at the buffet station at one time.

Yong Great Wall Buffet in Brantford is also open again.

Both King Tin and Yong Great Wall declined requests for comment.

While Goodridge calls buffets high risk, he says people shouldn't be too concerned about contracting COVID-19 through food or by touching utensils.

"That's certainly one way the virus can spread, but it is not the main way that it can spread," he said. "There's never been any evidence whatsoever that the virus can be spread through food."