VIRGINIA (WAVY) — As part of phase 3 reopening in Virginia, buffet-style restaurants are allowed to open to customers.
That means after 3 months of being closed, Golden Corral restaurants in Hampton Roads are beginning to reopen.
“I missed them. I missed eating here,” said Virginia Beach resident Kenneth Pugh.
The all-you-can-eat experience looks quite a bit different after all the changes they’ve made to keep the employees and guests safe during the pandemic.
Golden Corral franchisee, Hu Odom, owns 20 Golden Corral restaurants in four states. He’s been in the business for decades and says, by far, COVID 19 was the biggest hurdle he ever had to cross.
“We furloughed almost 2,000 coworkers, managers, which was one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make. But it had to be done in order to allow us to conserve cash so we could reopen,” Odom explained.
Odom says they initially tried to continue operations with to-go plates for about a week, but it proved too difficult with all of the restrictions.
Monday was a big day as two of the eight Hampton Roads locations reopened under their new safety plan.
The employees were brought in earlier for three days of sanitation training. Their temperatures are also checked every shift.
“We have consulted some of the top experts in public health in the country,” Odom said.
It all starts from the second the guest walks in the door. There are floor stickers to make sure everyone social distances. Customers no longer get their own drinks; an employee brings them to the customer, along with silverware.
The biggest change customers will notice is the buffet safety zone with one entry and exit point. They’re also given a glove to wear.
Other areas like the chocolate fountain and ice cream machine have also been switched up to pre-made plates or an employee gets it for the customer.
The bathrooms are closed to be deep-cleaned every hour, and tables are wiped down between each guest.
Plus, Odom says they took out 25 percent of their seating to spread guests out even more for social distancing.
“As far as the environment and all, I feel like they’ve done a good job redoing the service and all,” Pugh said.
Golden Corral will open up more of their locations in the coming weeks, but right now they’re just starting with their Chesapeake location off Volvo Parkway and Virginia Beach location off Independence Boulevard.
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