The hardest reservation to book in Vegas right now might be the buffet

Jun 19, 2020

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Right now, reservations for The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas are fully booked until 8:45 p.m. — tomorrow. The story was the same yesterday, June 18, when the buffet reopened to unexpected demand.

Despite it being a blisteringly hot June day in Nevada, with no conventions, conferences or major events to speak of, one of the hardest reservations to book in town might well be a seat at the newly reopened buffet. It’s just the latest example of how vacationers this summer should expect to plan their fun far in advance.

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Wynn’s buffet is the first to reopen on the Strip, but instead of diners filing into a buffet line and filling their plate with Alaskan king crab legs, they must grab a seat at a table and order “well-portioned” dishes from a waiter.

If that sounds like, well, a normal restaurant, you’re not wrong, though travelers will be able to order an unlimited number of plates from a menu featuring more than 90 items. You can order as much as you can consume within two hours. Reservations are not technically required, but they are suggested.

The buffet interior at Wynn Las Vegas
The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas. (Photo by Barbara Kraft)

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Diners can choose from a chili-marinated lamb T-bone with spicy cilantro sauce; seafood paella with tiger shrimp, crawfish, scallops and pork chorizo; prime rib with Yorkshire pudding and nearly two dozen desserts. Yes, even the chilled crab legs with drawn butter and lemon are back on the table. The dinner buffet costs $59.99 per person on weekdays and $65.99 on weekends, not including alcoholic beverages or gratuities.

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The brunch “buffet” is also back for $39.99 per person on weekdays and $48.99 on the weekend (think: lobster eggs Benedict, lemon-ricotta cheese blintzes and congee with pork and preserved egg).

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In addition to table service, guests will notice other changes at Wynn’s buffet, such as more space between tables, waiters wearing masks and disposable menus. And while you can still stuff yourself silly, that undeniable thrill of judgment-free plate-piling at the self-serve buffet is gone, at least for now.

“Half the fun of a buffet is pacing back and forth, glancing at all your options,” said TPG’s executive editorial director, Scott Mayerowitz, who has made 19 trips to Vegas in his life — plus countless refills at most of the big-name buffets on the Strip.

And while that might be a necessary sacrifice to restore consumer confidence in the concept of buffets in a post-pandemic era, it’s a big change.

“In a focus group about dining, several of the people mentioned they no longer feel comfortable going to buffets,” Henry H. Harteveldt, an airline, hotel and travel industry analyst, told TPG in March. “They don’t feel comfortable in the current environment that the hygiene is as safe as it needs to be … The question is: Once health conditions return to a more normal state, will people feel more comfortable going to buffets in the future, or will these concerns be longer lasting?”

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Elsewhere, at airport lounges and hotel restaurants, buffets are taking on all different forms. Some are relying on prepackaged, grab-and-go meals, while others are switching to cafeteria-style dining. And even if a more traditional buffet service returns, travelers should expect to see staff members serving food, plenty of plexiglass and single-serve condiments.

The good news? When you need to order by the plate from a waiter, it may be easier than ever to visit a buffet without completely overdoing it.

Feature photo of The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas by Barbara Kraft.

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