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This Nearly-Extinct Type of Restaurant Is Making a Comeback, New Data Shows

These eateries may just survive the pandemic after all.

From staffing shortages to supply chain issues, COVID-19 has had a major impact on restaurants and how they operate. 

With dining restrictions in major cities causing many to opt for takeout, buffets may seem like a thing of the past right now. But new data from Yelp shows that they may, in fact, be bouncing back a bit. 

The 2021 Yelp Economic Average Report studied consumer interest on the review platform to track the pandemic's continued impact on restaurants—and found that interest in buffets increased by 31% compared to the fourth quarter of 2020. 

"For those that ventured out, we saw a rise in consumer interest in dining options previously upended by social distancing guidelines," the report states. Keep reading to find out what else Yelp's report found out about buffet restaurants, and next, check out the 8 Worst Fast-Food Burgers to Stay Away From Right Now.


To gather the information, Yelp looked at the search terms users input through the platform. In addition to increased interest in buffets, users also showed interest in dinner theater, conveyor belt sushi, and food courts (a la Costco's food court, which is a big hit amongst members). It's clear that diners are missing the pre-pandemic, sit-down, casual style of going out to eat. 

"Overall, 2021 underscored how the pandemic, coupled with supply chain and labor constraints, and pent-up demand, complicate the economic recovery," the report continues. "Business openings inched closer to pre-pandemic levels and vaccinations have played a key role in allowing many to return to in-person activities that were restricted just a year ago."

If this new data is any indication, we could see an increase in the popularity of buffet restaurants in the near future. That is, if the once-popular dining option continues to have locations operating. 

As we've previously reported, since 2018, the once-popular buffet chain, Golden Corral, has a footprint that's "shrunk by over 25% with most of the losses occurring in the past two years. Last month, the buffet chain reported a system-wide total of 360 restaurants, with 80 restaurants lost in pandemic-related closures."

While the future of the buffet chain is uncertain, it's possible that an increase in diner interest may help keep these nearly-extinct restaurants afloat. 

Kristen Warfield
Kristen Warfield is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz’s journalism program in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Read more about Kristen
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