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Buffets missing in many hotels, some mark limited return in Stateline restaurants

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 6:56 PM CDT
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(WIFR) - Buffets for the most part have been missing from several restaurants, hotels and events due to COVID-19. Now that restrictions are easing gradually throughout the state, some places are giving the buffet another go. This time, it won’t look like what it used to before.

Mary Moore is the co-owner of Pizza Ranch in Roscoe. Since COVID-19 hit in March 2020, their inside space has been through a few closures and lots of changes at the buffet-style staple.

“I’ve been doing this ever since we opened, saying ‘clean hands save lives.’ We were closed down and then Governor Pritzker opened us up in July. We had plexiglass and that’s when we had to serve everybody. After about a week of that, we were told it was okay for people to serve themselves. Thank god for that,’ Mary says.

The most recent closure for indoor dining was in October, another blow to an already tough year. I asked her if she thought there was a chance they may not make it, a tearful Mary says, “Yes my husband and I did look into filing bankruptcy. We’ve never done that before. That was the hardest thing to contemplate.”

But the couple never gave up, as Pizza Ranch reopened in March. Buffets now in general much operate differently, even in hotels. Many hotels, including Comfort Inn in Rockford, haven’t had a buffet in more than a year. Ritu Pandulla, the General Manager of Comfort Inn says, “We are following the grab and go mandate that has been set up by the brand. Everything is not touched from the factory until it’s in the customer’s hands.”

Ritu says it’s just not the same without the waffle-makers, trays of eggs and bacon and the smell of toast every morning. “We do understand that the gusts miss that as well, especially with the kids that was such a big draw. But you do what you have to do.”

The changes are in place for the customer’s safety, to keep the buffet-style alive and thriving for years to come. Mary says that customers must wear masks to the buffet and must use the provided hand sanitizer before they grab their food. “That’s what we’re about. We don’t want this stuff to go on and we don’t want to close down again. This is my heart here, I’ve always loved this place. I love what I do,” Mary says.

Mary tells us that business is slowly picking up as their regular customers are eager to come back. She says the one hurdle they’re trying to overcome is finding staff as they’re short by at least 12 people. They definitely aren’t alone on that one.

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