VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Buffets are one of the last industries to open under Virginia's Phase Three guidelines.
The dining room is now starting to fill back up at the Golden Corral on Independence Boulevard in Virginia Beach.
"I've been in the restaurant business for 40 years, and this is the most difficult period I've encountered," said franchise owner Hu Odum.
Odum owns 20 Golden Corrals across the southeast. The restaurants have been locked up and empty for four months.
Odum had to lay off more than 2,000 of his employees.
"It was so sudden and so unexpected," said Odum.
The fresh salads are now back out, as well as the piping hot comfort food favorites and delicious desserts. Both the Virginia Beach and Chesapeake locations opened for buffet goers this week.
"We know at Golden Corral we have great food, but you can't enjoy a good meal if you don't feel comfortable and safe," Odum said.
All employees have been through days of new training, and they must get their temperature taken before clocking in. As for guests, their new safer dining experience starts the second they enter the doors.
"We have social distancing markers on the floor, sanitizing stations and plexiglass between the cashier and the customer," said Odum.
Guests must also put on disposable gloves before they enter the buffet. Glasses and condiments will also be brought directly to their table.
"We have controlled access to everything - only one way in and one way out," said Odum.
Buffet safety zones are clearly marked with partitions and are all manned by safety attendants.
"There is nothing more important to us at Golden Corral than maintaining safety and good health of our guests as well as safety and good health of employees," he said.
In addition, more than 20% of the tables have been taken out in the restaurants to maintain social distancing. Waitstaff also perform rigorous cleaning measures at all touch points.
"Come in and take a look around; we think you will be impressed at what we have done," said Odum.
For a list of open restaurants and all the safety measures, click here.