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What Hotel Buffets Will Look Like Now

Contactless ordering, room service, and Grab & Go may become the new normal for this popular hotel staple.

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Who doesn’t love a good hotel buffet? They are cost-effective, delicious, and it doesn’t matter if your eyes are bigger than your stomach. There is something truly magical about groggily taking the elevator down to the hotel lobby to find an expansive breakfast spread in front of you, but while still exciting, these moments will look a little different now due to the coronavirus pandemic. We spoke to experts to see just what will be different about hotel buffets in a post-pandemic world. Before you take your vacation, check out these 12 things to consider before booking hotels again.

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No more serving yourself

One major change we might see at hotel buffets post-pandemic is that we won’t be the ones putting the food on our plates. Guests will most likely just point to the food that they want behind plexiglass and servers will place the food on their dish. “That way, only one person will be holding the serving utensils and guests may not have to wear gloves to prevent the transfer of bacteria,” says Laurie Wilkins, founder of Call Outdoors.

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Hand sanitizer will become a staple

If you haven’t already noticed, hand sanitizer has become a staple everywhere and hotels are not the exception. Hand sanitizing stations will likely be at various access points throughout the buffet. “These hand sanitizers might also have a foot pump dispenser, so everything is hands-free,” claims Wilkins. “Since there are many people coming to the restaurant, the surface of hand sanitizer bottles may potentially be unsanitary as well.” Don’t miss the 12 cleanest hotels according to travel agents.

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Breakfast rooms will be sealed

Dining rooms will be closed in order to avoid unnecessary congregation and interaction between guests at some large hotel chains including Best Western Hotels & Resorts. Guests will eat in their own private spaces so everyone can maintain distance and limit contact. Curious to know if your hotel room is really clean? See how professional cleaners can tell if a room has been cleaned.

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Grab & Go options

Best Western is also enhancing its “Grab & Go” offerings meaning that all food and beverage options will be pre-packaged to avoid contamination. With pre-packaged options, guests will avoid unnecessary touching or breathing on the food and will also have limited contact with servers.

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Waiter service

“The food will still be mass-produced but, instead of customers going up to grab food, they will order from the staff who will bring the food to you,” explains Raymond Cua, founder of Travelling Foodie. “This will eliminate the need to have all the food displayed outside which is prone to contamination.” Having a waitstaff can also prevent unnecessary contact with other guests as the only outside contact people will have is with their server. See if a hotel or an Airbnb is safer after lockdown ends.

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Contactless ordering

Cua also claims that some hotels may implement contactless ordering with the use of a device rather than having a server physically come to take your order. That way, the only contact will be the delivery of the food to the table.

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Room service

“One possible action plan that hotels can do is to use room service as a platform to connect their customers to their hotel buffet offerings,” says Yaniv Masjedi, CMO at Nextiva. “Customers can choose the food and drinks they like to eat and relay information to the front desk. Then, room service delivers orders. With this set-up, it helps prevent the spread of the virus by eliminating the chances of hotel guests interacting with one another.” Hotel employees can also leave the food outside the door like many takeout places have been doing to limit face-to-face contact. Learn what you should never, ever do in a hotel room.

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Directional buffets

For hotels that are still allowing for in-person buffets, guests will only be able to move in one direction while socially distanced—just like many stores that are placing directional arrows on the floor. “Buffets will become more ‘directional’ with you needing to start on one end, and finish in another, for more traffic flow,” explains Alex Miller, CEO of Upgraded Points.com. Next, check out the best U.S. hotels and resorts for social distancing.

For more on this developing situation, including how life might be different post-lockdown, see our comprehensive Coronavirus Guide.