SINGAPORE - Buffets are making a comeback, with safety measures in place, more than a year after they were taken off the menu since the circuit breaker period kicked in on April 7 last year to stem the spread of Covid-19.
According to guidelines sent out by the Association of Catering Professionals Singapore, staff-served food lines can resume as of Monday (April 12) at food and beverage outlets, corporate and work-related events, and events in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) industry.
Buffets at weddings, funeral services and social activities within corporate settings are still not permitted.
Popular buffet eatery Carousel at Royal Plaza on Scotts resumed its buffet line on Monday, while StraitsKitchen at the Grand Hyatt Singapore will do so from Tuesday.
However, diners will not be allowed to help themselves to the food as they did before the pandemic hit.
According to the guidelines seen by The Straits Times, servers must dish out the food items for diners, who are not allowed to have any contact with the food.
The food being served must be covered with plastic shields or other barriers, servers must wear masks and cannot handle the food with their bare hands.
Diners queueing for food must also have their masks on and must maintain a 1m distance from the next person in the queue. The establishments must also ensure there is a 1m distance between the queue and the nearest seated diner.
Mr Patrick Fiat, the general manager of Royal Plaza on Scotts, said all dishes at the buffet counters at Carousel are partitioned with sneeze guards that are frequently sanitised.
"There will also be one server assisting each diner per buffet line to ensure that plates are not passed back and forth between various staff members and diners," he said.
Desserts can be selected from a dessert trolley that will make the rounds towards the end of the meal periods, while beverages can be ordered through a digital menu and served to the table.
Mr Sebastian Kern, director of food and beverage at Grand Hyatt Singapore, told ST that StraitsKitchen closed on April 7 last year. It reopened on June 20 and offered an "a la minute" buffet, meaning servers would take orders from the diners at their table and serve the food to them.
Mr Kern said the restaurant decided to resume its buffet service on Tuesday to coincide with its Ramadan dinner promotion, which runs till Hari Raya Puasa on May 13.
The Grand Hyatt's other restaurant, mezza9, will offer a staff-served buffet line from next Sunday, but only for appetisers during its Sunday brunch offering. But main courses and desserts will continue to be served at the table.
Additional rules are in place for corporate and Mice events.
For corporate events, each food line can serve up to only 50 people and a safe management representative must be present to ensure compliance. Guests must be seated once they get their food and no mingling is allowed.
For Mice events, attendees are split into zones of up to 50 attendees, further divided into cohorts of up to 20 people. Those in the same food queue must be from the same cohort. If a single food line is used, attendees from different zones cannot be served at the same time.
In response to queries, Enterprise Singapore said it is working towards relaxing safe management measures for staff-served food lines and will release an updated advisory soon.