The Return of the Hotel Buffet: How to Not Be a Grub When Helping Yourself


The pandemic at its peak devastated the travel industry, taking with it a much-loved feature of the hotel stay: The breakfast buffet.

But domestic travel is very much back on, and while Aussies are keener now than ever to Holiday Here This Year, it’s taken a little longer for the beloved buffet to make a comeback.

In a time of greetings without handshakes and hand sanitiser upon entry, there was simply no way the buffet could prevail. Communal tongs and sneeze muffins have never exactly been COVID-safe — even cold and flu-safe — which is why for the last year or so, à la carte menus overtook buffets with no promise of its return.

But now, the buffet is back. The buffet is back, and it’s better than ever before. Not just because of the food, but because for the first time in history, the buffet might actually be somewhat sanitary. And this germophobic editor couldn’t be more excited.

All around Australia, hotels have begun reopening self-serve buffets to crowds of hungry diners. The newly opened Crown Sydney is welcoming guests to its buffet, and serving up seafood delights like prawns, lobsters and oysters. And in Melbourne, Melba at The Langham Hotel re-opened its buffet recently to phones ringing off the hook.

But despite these buffets still boasting trays of seemingly neverending foods and lavish extras like chocolate fountains, waffle stations and the less-exciting-but-still-very-cool omelette stations, there are some aspects that will now look a little different.

So, in celebration of the triumphant return of the buffet, here are four ways not to be grub.

1. Wash your hands and use hand sanitiser

Upon entering the restaurant, be sure to first check into the venue on your smartphone before using the hand sanitiser provided, or even better, washing your hands. Do not wipe your hands on your pants to dry them, and if you do, sanitise them again.

2. Use the tongs

In some restaurants, shared utensil touchpoints are being swapped out and disinfected regularly — in 15-minute intervals, in some cases. This means you can feel pretty confident the communal tongs are clean, especially if all attendees use the hand sanitiser correctly. If the buffet is relying on staff to safely deposit foods on plates, be respectful of this process and maintain social distancing with the servers. Essentially, there’s no excuse to use your fingers, and this was true before and after COVID.

3. Wear a mask

Restaurants like Melba are asking that guests wear masks to collect food at the buffet. Important is also how you put on and take off your mask, so if you need a refresher course, check our handy guide to using and disposing of masks here.

4. Respect the flow

Some restaurants are encouraging a strict flow around the buffet, to assist in social distancing and to maintain cleanliness. The Melba, for example, has an anti-clockwise flow, so be sure to mark the entry and exit points and do not cut the line, even if it’s to grab a croissant to stuff in your bag on the way out.

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