Wine Talk with Alice Swift
“Welcome [Back] to Las Vegas” Once Again
Finally, Las Vegas has opened its doors once again! While the state continues to monitor the number of COVID-19 cases amidst the reopening of the city to tourism, several state and national organizations have released guidelines to reopening F&B establishments in the midst of COVID-19. A summary of recommendations for restaurant operation guidelines are listed (note that guidelines in hotels/casinos may differ):
• Redesign restaurant layout to maintain a minimum of 6 feet distance between tables, with limited seating capacity
• Guests to wear masks to/from their tables
• Employees to wear masks and keep contact with others to a minimum, standard protocols of handwashing and sanitation
• Installation of physical barriers (e.g. sneeze guards, partitions) and signage indicating 6-ft distances for places where lines form
• Posted signs/messages with reminder of maintaining hygiene and staying sanitary
• Regular cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, with a standardized schedule
• Use of disposable/digital menus and other food services items (e.g. napkins, utensils, tablecloths), single-serve condiments, touchless trash bins, touchless payment, etc.
• Avoid self-serve F&B options (e.g. buffets, salad bars, drink stations)
Now, the last item in the list drew my attention. If businesses were to follow these guidelines in totality, the buffets and all-you-can-eat soup/salad concepts would be completely obliterated. In May 2020, Soup Plantation and Sweet Tomatoes soup and salad buffet restaurants announced the permanent closures of their 97 locations solely due to COVID-19. With so many states explicitly recommending to avoid the buffet concept, many buffet-centered restaurants are at a loss for what to do and may resort to closing.
One of the attractions for Las Vegas tourism is the impressive array of buffet options. That being said, businesses are beginning to think creatively to still be able to deliver the buffet experience while avoiding self-serve food and beverage. Here are a few models that may be the “new” buffet concept.
AYCE Buffet (Wynn Hotel)
On June 18, Wynn Las Vegas was the first Strip hotel to reopen the buffet, with a “reimagined” concept. Guests make reservations in advance, and are given a 2-hour period during the meal for unlimited ordering of over 90 all-you-can-eat (AYCE) dishes served tableside. Of course, there is also a “limitless pour” package for all-you-can-drink (AYCD) beer, wine and signature cocktails. Knowing that the number of item options have decreased from the prior buffet model, it makes sense that this revised model will have a higher quality selection of food items. With the Gourmet Dinner Menu, you have your choice of a selection of mouth-watering dishes, such as the Seafood Boil, Double Cut Lamb Chops, Togarashi Spiced Atlantic Salmon, Seafood Paella, Lobster Ravioli, Steak and Lobster, Crispy Pork Belly and much, much more.
Learn more at: wynnlasvegas.com/dining/casual-dining/the-buffet
AYCE Sushi (Yama Sushi)
The AYCE (All-You-Can-Eat) model has been around well before the COVID-19 epidemic. One of my favorite cuisines and a must-eat stop when returning to visit Las Vegas is AYCE sushi. A large AYCE menu is provided, with unlimited ordering for a restricted period of time for a set dollar amount (usually ~ $23-30 depending on whether for lunch or dinner service). Some of the pricier items do have ordering restrictions. For example, at Yama Sushi, they set a limit of 1 order per person for things like Uni (Sea Urchin), Soft Shell Crab, Sweet Shrimp, Hamachi Kama (Yellowtail Collar), etc.
According to their Yelp page’s recent announcement, Yama Sushi has re-opened for dine-in at 50% seating capacity, with first-come-first-served seating at the Flamingo and Spring Mountain locations (Yama Sushi the Strip is taking reservations until full).
AYCE Brazilian Steakhouse (Fogo de Chao)
The other AYCE model that comes to mind is the Brazilian steakhouse. These restaurants do have a focus on fire-roasted meats, so perhaps not ideal for vegetarians. At your table, you receive a sign card to use to indicate your eating status. Flip the card to green when you would like the servers to stop at your table and serve you various meats, or flip the card to red when you are full or would like to pause.
Fogo de Chao in Las Vegas offers The Fogo® Churrasco Experience for lunch ($39.95) and dinner ($59.95), with this unlimited, all-you-can-eat tableside service of signature cuts of fire-roasted meat.
Their website also has included their 12 Safety Promises (fogodechao.com/12-safety-promises), with the restaurant’s commitment to protecting the well-being and safety of their employees and guests.
Southern Nevada Health District: COVID-19 Guidance for Food Establishments southernnevadahealthdistrict.org/permits-and-regulations/food-establishment-resource-library/covid-19-guidance-for-food-establishments
Nevada Restaurant Association: Reopening Guidelines and Resources www.nvrestaurants.com/welcomeback.html
Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants, and Food Pick-Up/Delivery Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Center for Disease Control (CDC): Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes
It’s going to be a rough time for food and beverage establishments for the unforeseeable future. All we can do as fellow F&B professionals, and consumers, is to do our best to support these businesses and help them stay open through these trying times. Stay safe, and stay healthy!
Until next month, Cheers~!