How COVID-19 is changing buffets at hotels and airline lounges

Here's what some hotels, resorts, and airlines are doing in place of self-serve buffets.

Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg.
Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg. –Great Wolf Lodge

Self-serve buffets have become a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic as hotels, resorts, and airline lounges report shutting them down due to safety concerns.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association released industry-wide hotel cleaning standards in response to COVID-19 on April 27 , called “Safe Stay.” The guidelines call for limited buffet services that include attendant-served food, sneeze and cough screens, and pre-packaged foods and “grab & go” options when applicable.

At Great Wolf Lodge, where families before the pandemic helped themselves to everything from soup to seafood to desserts, self-serve buffets have been suspended and self-serve soda stations have been temporarily disabled. Instead, the resort’s quick-service restaurants will offer individual cans or bottles, and the sit-down restaurants will serve fountain drinks and provide a clean glass for each refill. The resort is also rearranging restaurant seating areas at its restaurants to allow for social distancing.

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InterContinental Hotels Group, which includes Kimpton Hotels, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn, is moving to “assisted-serve” rather than self-serve buffets. Also, beverage service will replace self-serve beverage stations, and guests will order from disposable or laminated menus that are more easily disinfected. Workers will also sanitize all tables and chairs between each guest and arrange tables for optimal social distancing.

At Omni Hotels & Resorts, attendants will now serve guests their food and drink at all buffets, receptions, and coffee stations.

Air travelers are discovering scaled-back food and beverage services at airline club lounges as well. For example, Delta Air Lines has swapped buffet service for pre-packaged food offerings, according to the airline. Though dozens of lounges remain closed due to the pandemic, the airline currently has 12 open lounges including one at Logan International Airport.

Before the pandemic, Sky Club lounges offered a buffet of seasonal, local foods that would rotate throughout the day, according to Kathryn Steele, spokesperson for Delta Air Lines. Now, passengers grab pre-packaged foods similar to what’s offered onboard a flight: Biscoff cookies, KIND bars, smoked almonds, and Cheez-Its.

“The measure comes as a way to keep customers safe and healthy,” Steele said.

The airline is expanding its pre-packaged food offerings in lounges to include yogurt, salad, hummus and pita chips, and sandwiches, according to the airline.

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