Buffets back open in Ohio despite pandemic safety concerns

The buffet is back open at restaurants and bars throughout Ohio, but with cautionary self-service measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

An order to reopen self-service food stations at buffets, salad bars and catering halls went into effect Thursday night in the Buckeye state, with mandates that eaters and business owners do their part to maintain social distance before indulging, Gov. Mike DeWine announced of the Ohio Department of Health amendment. The amendment comes on the heels of one of the busiest weekends for restaurants of the year: Valentine’s Day. 

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All-you-can-eat enthusiasts will have to play by the rules before they fill up their plates. Customers must wear facial coverings while using self-service food stations and waiting in line; buffet tables and salad bars must be spaced a minimum of six-feet apart from each other; and serving utensils must be sanitized and cleaned hourly, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

The guidelines also suggest customers use disposable napkins or wax paper when handling the communal utensils. 

During the pandemic, a number of restaurants and bars across the country stopped serving food buffet-style to avoid high-touch service areas that could promote the spread of the virus. It was a blow to the already struggling buffet restaurant industry, which shrank by 26% between 1998 and 2017, as other restaurants grew, according to a Business Insider report.

A sign for a buffet is seen inside Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 13, 2020, (Photo by BRIDGET BENNETT/AFP via Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests limiting sharing food tools and supplies and minimizing high-touch materials like serving spoons "to the extent possible; otherwise, limit the use of supplies and equipment by one group of workers at a time and clean and disinfect between use."The CDC also recommends avoiding shared items like menus and condiments.

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