Will buffets survive in a COVID-19 world? DeLand staple vows to push through

As restaurants start to reopen, there are concerns about the future of buffet-style restaurants in a COVID-19 world.

This week, Souplantation, a popular buffet-style restaurant based in San Diego, announced it was going out of business. Its parent company said FDA recommendations made its model unworkable.

The move is a troubling sign for other buffet-style places like Cook’s, a popular cafe serving southern comfort foo off of Woodland Boulevard in DeLand.

“This restaurant has been here for 61 years,” said owner Michael Cook.

He tells FOX 35 News that COVID-19 slashed 70 percent of business. The traditional restaurant was forced to change with the times.

It has been doing business through its take-out drive-thru, but Tuesday the buffet and inside dining will reopen. The buffet, in particular, is a unique challenge.

“Which is a little different from other restaurants because customers are more in contact with things,” said Cook.

He said they are testing out how to serve customers to ensure they are comfortable. Diners can serve themselves, have staff serve them or skip the buffet altogether.

“They can sit down and order what we call a heritage meal which is meat and three vegetables and never go to the buffet,” he said.

Thanks to savings and a deep fan base rooted in tradition, Cooks hopes to pull through, even if buffets fade away.

“There’s always table service. There’s always changing the format, which of course would be a learning curve, but it’s not impossible,” he said.