When buffets were quietly closed during the pandemic, it might have been hard to imagine that in just a few years, they would come back better than ever in a number of ways. But that’s where we are now. According to a recent New York Times report, even though a number of buffet restaurants have closed in the past couple of years, sales, demand and investment are up at others and are catering to a wide range of budgets. Even if your restaurant hasn’t operated a buffet in the past, it’s a format worth considering. Innovations in buffet design and presentation in the past few years have made buffet service a labor-friendly, waste-reducing option for operators and an experience-rich option for guests. They are also a safe choice for groups trying to accommodate a wide range of dietary preferences and make everyone feel like they have gotten a good value. First, the service structure of buffets has evolved to include more individual portions and enhance food safety. It’s more common to see pre-portioned and -plated items that guests can grab and take with them — as opposed to dishing out large portions that are too much for them to finish. Presentation has also taken a step up, with more premium, Instagrammable options on offer, as well as food stations that lend themselves to theatrical food preparation by chefs. On the food safety side, the increased availability of self-contained hot and cold food storage units are helping operators maintain food temperatures with greater precision. The greater use of individual portioning supports food safety too, allowing guests to limit their time standing over (and likelihood of breathing on) the buffet line.