Internet rumors swarmed about several restaurants closing due to the pandemic, including an American strip-mall classic: Old Country Buffet.
We’ve gotten to the bottom of it in this article to find out if there are any truths behind the rumors that the restaurant was closing and where they came from.
Old Country Buffet was once America’s go-to choice for buffets and all-you-can-eats. It was a place where you could get unlimited steak, chicken, mac and cheese, potatoes, broccoli, soft-serve ice cream, and everything else your appetite desired in one place for a low cost.
In many ways, Old Country Buffet was the name brand for buffet-style dining for many years, but due to changes in culture, health, and the way we consume food due to the pandemic, Old Country Buffet has seen a nosedive in profits for over the last twenty years.
The truth is that most of their storefronts have closed, and the ones that are still standing are not the most hopeful. The corporation has filed for bankruptcy three times since 2006 and with a global pandemic keeping eaters at home more often than before, things aren’t looking good for the chain.
Let’s find out more about the chain.
So, Is Old Country Buffet Closing?
With only 17 Old Country Buffet restaurants open in the United States in 2022, most likely, the restaurant won’t be around forever.
According to CNNBusiness.com, Old Country Buffet filed for its third bankruptcy in 2021, with the pandemic being the last straw on the camel’s back.
Other buffet chains such as CiCi’s Pizza, Sweet Tomatoes, and Golden Corral suffered similar fates as well and closed up many of their stores that same year.
The reason behind this was that people weren’t able to eat out, and when they did, Covid restrictions made a buffet-style restaurant impossible to run in the way Americans were used to.
Lower capacities meant less capital. On top of that, there were limited opportunities for a buffet to adapt to rapidly-changing food culture. Farm-to-table and food delivery apps made a buffet style that much more challenging.
So with all of the negativity going for them, it seems that rumors of Old Country Buffet closing were inevitable? Let’s find out more about those.
Where Did These Rumors Come From?
With news of the third bankruptcy, many eaters realized that they hadn’t been to a Country Buffet (or any other buffet either) in more than a decade—so the writing was on the wall.
Restaurants began adopting the farm-to-table trend, which is a way of eating that supports local communities, farmers, butchers, and other shop owners, as well as promoting healthier menu items, though it also costs more.
This was in some ways the opposite of what Country Buffet was about, portion sizes needed to be large and cheap to satisfy so many hungry customers day after day.
Another supporting factor of Country Buffet’s decline was actually at one time their greatest asset: the wide selection of food options. Many eaters have leaned towards specialty restaurants instead, such as Indian or a pizzeria, rather than Country Buffet didn’t specialize in any particular food in general.
Because of all of these changes to food culture, Country Buffet began closing doors. Then when the pandemic hit, rumors circulated on the web that the buffet empire was going to be done soon.
Will It Close in the Future?
It’s impossible to say what the last 17 restaurants will do. It could one of two ways.
Some restaurant chains have been able to turn things around. Pizza Hut, for instance, went from closing 300 stores, to changing the way they get food to customers via apps and smaller / closer locations.
They also added new menu items and made getting the food fast and easy without sacrificing quality. In other words, it’s not over for Old Country Buffet just quite yet.
Old Country buffet also began investing in food psychology, meaning they studied the way people eat and began moving their buffet line around. Expensive items came last and in smaller portions, while the cheaper buffet items, such as potatoes and veggies, went in the front.
Country Buffet did partner with UberEats which didn’t hurt, but it certainly hasn’t seemed to be saving the buffet chain. The portions were predetermined and if you wanted seconds, well, you had to pay for them.
Other Restaurant Closings
With so many changes caused by the pandemic, the way restaurants adapted became their savior. But many still struggled with employing enough people to run their restaurants, even if they stayed open.
Around 300 Pizza Hut stores closed shop, yet the fast-food pizza giant stayed in business and saw a turnaround in 2021.
IHOP, Chuck E Cheese, and Dave and Buster’s however, did close more doors in 2021 due to labor shortages.
Other chains, such as Taco Bell, offered innovative means of delivery as well as new menu items.
So Old Country Buffet is still alive, at least 17 of them—I’m not sure where else you can get a plate full of so many different cuisines in one line otherwise—but the company seems to still be struggling.
We will see how Old Country Buffet adapts in the years to come, or if they will close for good. It’s hard to tell as the internet makes food consumption healthier and easier to access, but companies find new ways to stay relevant.
But rest easy. Your favorite buffet chain is still around for now.