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Will You Use Buffets and Other Self-Service Features in Lounges?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Ah, buffets. One of the main standards by which many judge airport and hotel club lounges.

But will people be too worried about using buffets when travel ramps up again? Will airlines and hotels even open up themselves to any potential involved risks?

A hot foot buffet is seen at the Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 4.
Hot food options at the Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 4 buffet

I think buffets and other self-service options will exist again after COVID-19 gets its walking papers. Retrofitting locations for full-service setups and staffing them would, I believe, be too cost-prohibitive.

Evening snacks are seen inside the Regency Club lounge at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare Chicago airport hotel in Rosemont, Illinois.
Evening snacks inside the Regency Club lounge at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare Chicago

There’s always the option to do away completely with self-service food and beverage offerings. But that disincentivizes people to renew lounge memberships or take advantage of credit cards that offer airport lounge access.

A salad bar is seen the United Club LAX airport lounge in Los Angeles, California. © Chris Carley / PointsLounge.
Salad options at the United Club LAX airport lounge

Some people don’t seem to worry about catching COVID-19, while others won’t do anything until there’s a vaccine or other “all clear” signal.

Sneeze guards are one thing. And given a heightened awareness of respiratory droplets, they should be required (if not already).

Some food choices at the American Express Centurion Lounge DFW.
Some food choices at the American Express Centurion Lounge DFW

But people touching serving utensils is another issue. This would potentially get costly — but what if lounges required guests to use a new set of disposable gloves each during each trip to a buffet?

Glove up for the buffet or coffee creamer?

I’ve always been good about using hand sanitizer after getting food from a buffet or pouring a drink from a self-service bar (or another beverage dispenser). I’ll become religious about it when travel resumes!

Self-service bar inside the Delta Sky Club at LAX T2
Self-service bar inside the Delta Sky Club at LAX T2

But some people were never fans of buffets.

Commenting on yesterday’s post about which North American restaurant is the continent’s highest revenue generator, reader Marcos said, “Nope. Always avoid buffets due to sanitary concerns of how others improperly use them. This was even prior to [COVID-19].”

What Will You Do?

Will you still use buffets? What other suggestions do you have for lounges? Please share your thoughts in the below Comments section!

— Chris

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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23 Comments

  1. I would rather have a voucher, even before COVID, to go into the main restaurant for breakfast, coffee, etc. They could also do that with vouchers at the bar for appetizers, etc. at full service hotels.

    Would rather sit at a table/booth away from everyone right now until things get better

    • Of course I would still eat at a lounge buffet. People need to snap out of this “new normal” nonsense. We have become a nation full of brainwashed sheep.

      And wearing masks? Never. I refuse to live in a country where covering one’s face is considered acceptable and normal.

      • Well Alan…at least the rest of us sane folks won’t have to worry. Because without the mask…you’re not getting in!

        • At this point, nothing we are doing to ourselves can reasonably be considered sane or rational. We are driving this country off of a cliff over a virus that has killed more people over the age of 90 than under the age of 50. Try wrapping your head around that.

          • Spin your convoluted rhetoric anyway you wish Alan…thankfully you’re STILL not getting in without a mask!

        • Agree with Warren b. Wearing a mask is not stripping you of your civil rights so get over yourself.
          This is about safety for everyone not just you which you don’t seem to care about.

  2. Lounges could simply station an employee to handle all the food based upon what a guest directs them to get from the buffet. Sort of like telling a bartender what you want. A buffetender?

  3. Charles Gunning Reply

    Can we safely eat the virus? Will it survive being consumed? I try to not put food in my nose, but I’m sure it happens sometime. Just wondering..

  4. There is no doubt that self-service buffets, salad bars, etc. are going to change in the wake of this pandemic. Yes…they were risky before…but now they can be potentially deadly. I think whether it’s a lavish buffet at a casino or a small breakfast offering at a Sky Club, businesses are going to have to eliminate self-serve and have you be served from an employee. It will add cost…but they’ll pass that on to us anyway. And, it’s a cost I’m willing to absorb.

    For those of us old enough…remember…there was once a time that all products didn’t have “safety seals” on them either. The Tylenol thing changed that. This will be similar (in that respect).

    • Potentially deadly? Brother, you’ve been brainwashed by the doomsayers that are the media, the political elite, and the public health dictators.

      Nearly every action you take outside of your home is potentially deadly, and considering that over 99% of the people who contract this virus will survive, I’d just assume catch the virus than drive down I-15 during rush hour.

  5. Freddie Flynt Reply

    buffets were a huge part of the Covid 19 spread on cruise ships. The air traveler should not add this to flaws in the system.

  6. Michael R Karpiel Reply

    The disposable gloves and the glass sneeze guard should work in most cases.

  7. I have never been a fan of buffets, way before covid.
    A while back- Pre 2020, terminal 4 sky club had servers
    For breakfast time which I thought was great!!!
    I hope that continues for all meals! Some items were self serve and I’d stay away from those.

  8. I think there will be a pivot to a much smaller selection of individually wrapped items.

  9. Barry Graham Reply

    I could never partake in them due to my kosher diet. If this were to result in a bigger selection of kosher items, I would be happy. That having been said, I think it would be a shame if the buffets were discontinued. When I am able to partake in buffets, I love them. People seem to like them and I hope they stay even though I can’t eat from them.

  10. Most of the food in many clubs is cold and nasty. I can’t think of an airport lounge that I have visited in the US that would pass health dept food temperature requirements. The staff in those clubs don’t care either. I have mentioned it more than once. Whatever new rules get put in place probably wont matter much.

  11. I think having servers might not cost so much extra actually: I think people tend to take more food when they can help themselves.

  12. I like the idea of servers for buffets, which I think could be easily done, at least in the airline lounges. Delta is already doing that for drinks in the Sky Clubs (food is pre-packaged snacks only). And people should use hand sanitizer before touching common bar or buffet items that others will be touching, as well as after.

  13. Every time each person enters a buffet, they could be given a new spoon to use for each item. After, it could serve as their eating utensil. If servers are cheaper, that would work quite well also.

  14. We could take a lesson from the amazing Virgin Club at Heathrow. There are servers with a menu, a bartender at the bar and where would be a buffet like setting it is more like a deli where you ask them to make you a plate. It adds a sense of luxury to the experience besides and would seem more worth the price to belong. That would also curt down on traffic. 🙂

    • Barry Graham Reply

      @Jane you are right, I had forgotten about that. It’s at New York too but not as good. Both of them even have kosher food and probably other special meals.

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