Chesapeake Health Department weighs in on buffet dining concerns during pandemic

Posted at 5:17 PM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 21:26:36-04

NORFOLK, Va. — Rajput Indian Cuisine has been serving Indian food at its Norfolk restaurant for 20 years. They say the lunch buffet was popular before the pandemic and allowed newcomers to the Indian cuisine the ability to try different dishes to see what they like.

Last week, the restaurant reopened its lunch buffet for the first time since shutting it down last year when the pandemic started.

“Everything is cleaned multiple times. All spoons and forks and everything are changed multiple times. All plates are changed multiple times,” says manager Nipun Chhabra.

In addition to increasing cleaning measures, the family-owned restaurant made other changes. For $14.99, customers get a large plate called a Thali Tray to pile on as much food as they want, but customers can only make one trip through the line now to help reduce waste.

Additionally, gloves are offered for those who want them; however, the Chesapeake Health Department says touching the same utensils as others isn’t a cause for concern.

“A lot of studies haven't found the virus transmitting through inanimate contact of utensils and stuff; there hasn't been a lot of examples of that actually happening,” said Chesapeake Health Department Environmental Health Food Program Supervisor Jason Williams.

The health department says buffets are safe for those who are vaccinated. Following CDC guidelines is recommended for those who are not vaccinated.

“Where we're at right now with the buffet-style, I think we're getting close to the level of safety as you would have prior to the pandemic now,” said Williams.

Bringing back the buffet is one more step towards getting back to the normal restaurant routine, and customers like Julian Valadez are welcoming its return.

“Everyone is going to decide their own level of risk, but as long as, you know, an establishment or a restaurant is taking appropriate measures, I think everyone can look at those measures and decide where their own personal comfort level is,” said Valadez.

Valadez says being vaccinated has also allowed him to feel safe returning to a buffet.

Rajput says all of their staff are also vaccinated and they recommend people still wear masks.

The restaurant says it expects there will be a gradual transition before they see all the same faces for lunch that they once did.

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