Self-serve buffets no longer on the menu in B.C.

Don’t go looking for a self-serve buffet as restaurants open because it won’t be on the menu.

New provincial rules required restaurants to remove buffets and other self-serve amenities. The restriction is on a long list of rules on Worksafe B.C.’s website giving restaurants a road map for resuming business in a safe manner.

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Royal Spice Fine Indian Cuisine on Cloverdale Avenue has been offering takeout and delivery, but is now focused on restarting its dining room, manager Harish Sherma said Tuesday.

He is hoping to open the doors again to seated dining within a week.

When he does, the restaurant’s traditional buffet will not be there. Instead, diners will see a new option — a combination of curries as a substitution for a buffet.

At Green Cuisine Vegetarian Restaurant off the courtyard of Market Square, a clear plastic shield has been installed to separate diners from the salad bar and hot foods.

The buffet has been a long-standing feature of the 30-year-old restaurant, where popular items remain on offer, but only to be consumed off the premises.

And there’s a new protocol.

“We serve the food ourselves,” said owner Andy Cunningham. “We are not a self-serve buffet any more.”

Customers tell staff what they would like and it will be scooped out onto a plate.

“It has been quite a learning experience,” Cunningham said.

He is in the process of working out how to design a viable restaurant with reduced seating in order to comply with new health and safety protocols.

He hopes to reopen seating at half the former capacity, possibly next week. “We are waiting for our Plexiglas order to arrive.”

Green Cuisine benefits from being in Market Square, which provides plenty of space for customers outdoors, he said. Even though seating has been removed from the square, diners find places to perch.

And now that other shops are opening, Cunningham is hoping to see the city’s core revitalized. “All we need is more life downtown.”

On B.C. Ferries, all food services — including the Pacific Buffet — have been closed due to pandemic concerns.

“We are currently working on plans to provide limited food services on our ships,” Deborah Marshall, B.C. Ferries spokeswoman, said in a statement. “When those plans are finalized, we’ll certainly be letting our customers know.”

Sunday brunch buffets were popular at the Fireside Grill on West Saanich Road. But buffets are not on Tim Petropoulos’ mind right now as he thinks about how to reopen seats.

The restaurant’s managing partner expects that a little more than 100 seats will be available, down from a previous capacity of about 260. The massive main dining room will likely hold 40 to 50 seats, he said.

The Fireside Grill is fortunate because it also has upstairs seating and two outdoor patios, allowing for plenty of room between diners.

Petropoulos said a firm opening date has not been set.

Staff were initially laid off when the pandemic hit. Managers have been brought back first to learn protocol requirements so that they in turn can train returning employees. Petropoulos is hoping to see staff numbers return to their normal level of up to 50 by June or July.

“It is going to be a learning curve here for everyone.”

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