How The Buffet Experience In Singapore Has Changed To Cope With Coronavirus
If gourmands in Singapore want to indulge in a variety of cuisines in one go, they would often go to buffet restaurants that offer a bit of everything. But with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic drastically changing the F&B scene, traditional buffets with self-service concepts and communal amenities now seem like a relic in the past as more establishments have opted for digital experiences and contactless dining.
This point was reiterated when the country entered phase two on June 19. Restaurants were allowed to re-open for dine-in, given that they strictly follow the government’s Covid-19 guidelines to ensure a healthy and safe experience for everyone. That can’t be said for self-service buffets, which remain suspended during this period.
While popular places like Melt Café and Edge (located at Pan Pacific Singapore, currently used as a government facility) chose to keep their doors shut until further notice, other places have resumed services following major changes to their daily operations. Tiffin Room, for one, stopped serving its North Indian delicacies in the all-you-can-eat format. Instead, the breakfast and lunch buffet menus are now available as à la carte options and are priced individually.
“There is a strict adherence policy in place to HACCP principles for food preparation and hygiene,” explains Christian Westbeld, general manager of Raffles Hotel Singapore, adding that guests can further ease their discomfort by requesting for disposable utensils or booking private dining within their suites.
Even with a number of safety measures to follow, Dr Martin Bém, founding managing director of LeveL33 and the Ponte Group, confessed that they still want to stay true to the Level33 DNA. “We want to offer the same enjoyable experience from pre-circuit breaker while taking into account the different circumstances and expectations," Dr Bém shared.
That said, they didn’t completely remove their popular weekday lunch buffet but changed it into a “plated buffet”. In that sense, diners still have the option to pick and choose what they want from the spread of appetisers, but there’ll be a dedicated chef who’ll plate and serve the dishes. “There’ll be no self-service, no use of utensils or similar touchpoints anymore,” added Dr Bém.
While there’s no set date for the re-opening of Marina Bay Sands’ international buffet restaurant, Rise, the hotel has also announced that the format will be replaced with tableside service. In that way, food lovers can still enjoy unlimited servings of their favourite dishes—à la carte style. These will be served right to their table to minimise crowds at the buffet counters.
What about Sunday champagne brunches? Admittedly, their future remains uncertain now that most restaurants, including Racines, have discontinued their popular Sunday brunches for now. A spokesperson for Racines mentioned that in its place is a reduced à la carte breakfast menu, currently available to guests only and served as a breakfast set on personal trays.
In this time of coronavirus, adaptability is the most important thing for restaurants to survive this difficult period. Given how most buffet places have quickly changed with the times, it looks like we won’t be saying goodbye to them after all.
(Related: What to Expect in Phase 3 of Singapore’s Safe Re-Opening)