Buffet diners of all ages queue close together, plates and silverware perhaps already in hand, waiting for their turn to help themselves to the communal dishes of food. 

Serving utensils are shared and sometimes errantly switched from one dish to another. Spills happen.

The fact that most buffets are equipped with clear sneeze guards is a reminder that there has always been a little bit of risk involved. 

But when the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in March 2020 and restaurant dining rooms closed, buffets ground to a halt. The heat lamps and steam tables went cold. The chocolate fountains, under whose cascading flows countless cubes of pound cake, fruit and undoubtedly children’s hands once enrobed, dried up. 

Some have questioned what role buffets have in a post-pandemic world. But for a number of Fayetteville-area buffets, the last 18 months have been a time of closure, loss, adaptation and for some, a rebound and hope for the future.