Everyone has their own markers for a true return to normalcy, and it’s hard to imagine something more evocative of the pre-pandemic era than lining up shoulder-to-shoulder at a buffet and plopping down six different entrees and sides on the same plate. Americans’ confidence in public activities is on the rebound, if not at the same pre-omicron heights, and buffets are no exception to the rule.
According to a recent CivicScience study, more than half of all adults are at least somewhat comfortable with dining at restaurant buffets right now — which isn’t too far behind Americans’ overall comfort in eating out. However, the comfort in grocery store buffets surprisingly lags behind that of restaurant buffets, with just two-in-five feeling at least somewhat comfortable with dining at the grocery store.
Parents outpace the Gen Pop’s interest in grocery store buffets, with one-half expressing at least some level of comfort in eating there. Spread thin as they are, it’s hard to think of a more convenient meal option for parents than tacking on an extra half hour at the grocery store with the kids.
Adults’ likelihood to eat at buffets compared to before the pandemic shakes out across similar lines to comfort levels in restaurant buffets. But curiously, almost 10% of Americans are more likely than they were before the pandemic to eat at a buffet. Whether you chalk it up to the bang-for-your-buck element or interest in returning to communal events, a slim majority of Americans are currently OK with returning to the enduring restaurant staple.
That said, Americans who are currently less price-sensitive are three times more likely than the Gen Pop to have heightened interest in buffet dining right now — a reminder that buffets are still an indulgence above all else. It should go without saying that adults who feel a stronger urge to eat at buffets aren’t doing so out of necessity.
Although debates continue about how back to normal America really is right now, the enthusiasm for buffets is basically split right down the middle — with a not-insignificant cohort even more willing to line up for them than before the pandemic. Restaurant buffets may have a slightly easier path forward than grocery store buffets, but both have a strong segment of Americans ready to grab the tongs and ladles.