Tucson buffets make switch to cafeteria-style service amid coronavirus pandemic

Tucson buffets make switch to cafeteria-style service amid coronavirus pandemic

  • Updated

At Lin’s Grand Buffet on the south side, customers must now tell servers at various buffet stations what they’d like.

Getting that third serving of ribs, a few more sushi rolls or a second helping of dessert at your favorite Tucson buffet will no longer go unnoticed as restaurants like Lin’s Grand Buffet and Golden Corral have eliminated self service, shifting to a cafeteria-style model as a result of the coronavirus.

Another local buffet, Rigo’s on Oracle Road, has shut its doors permanently after 10 years in business, saying the pandemic was too much to weather.

Lin’s Grand Buffet, 1068 E. Tucson Marketplace Blvd., known for its vast array of food options, opened its doors Friday, May 15, for dine-in service, Manager Marcos Garcia said.

Employees were donning masks and gloves, hand sanitizer was made available throughout the south-side restaurant and barriers were erected at cash registers and along buffet lines.

The business, which can normally serve more than 400 people, has cut its capacity in half with tables blocked off to allow for social distancing, Garcia said.

But the biggest adjustment is moving to a cafeteria-style model in which customers have to ask servers at the various buffet stations for what they’d like, rather than having the ability to serve themselves unsupervised. Those looking for a second, or third, serving have to return to the line each time where they will be given a new plate and utensils.

Golden Corral, with three Tucson locations, is also serving customers on buffet lines. Of the restaurants three Tucson locations, the website identified only one, at 6385 S. Midvale Park Road, as being open Friday.

Employees at Golden Corral are undergoing temperature checks. Additional hand sanitizing stations have been set up and social distancing measures are in place.

For one well-known local buffet, the coronavirus pandemic took its toll, closing the doors of Rigo’s on Oracle permanently.

“COVID-19 had extremely affected our business and we had no other choice,” Rigoberto Lopez wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook page Friday. “Thank you to everyone for 10 amazing years. We thank all of you, from our amazing customers to our loyal staff.”

Lopez encouraged customers to visit the restaurant’s South Tucson location at 2527 S. Fourth Ave. Its Benson location also remains open.

For the time being, Rigo’s has shut down its buffet, offering table service only.

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