Several fast food restaurants — including Burger King and Popeyes — have announced that they are shutting down self-serve soda fountain areas as their restaurants are reopening to in-restaurant customer service. Those areas are seen as potential sources of coronavirus transmission (as well as being wet, sticky, and messy, incidentally). If customers want to get a refill on a drink, they will need to go to the counter and ask for one rather than refilling their cups themselves.
I think this is a good step for a lot of reasons, and I hope the reasoning soon expands to encompass other “self-serve” monstrosities — like “salad bars” and buffets. Risk of infection and disease transmission aside, I’ve never much cared for places where all of the food tends to end up at room temperature and you’re looking at eating something from a chafing dish that somebody else has already picked over. I have a reflexive aversion to food that needs to be provided with “sneeze-guard” protection. I also don’t like practices that allow businesses to fob off a share of the work that should be performed by paid employees to their patrons instead.
And let’s face it — buffets and self-serve food don’t exactly bring out the best in people, do they. If you’ve ever been to a buffet — be it on a cruise ship, at a Las Vegas casino, or a hotel’s breakfast offering — you know that buffets tend to encourage appalling gluttony. It’s embarrassing to watch, really. No one ordering breakfast from a menu is going to ask the waitress to bring them three separate dishes, but it’s pretty common to see people surreptitiously going back for multiple helpings of waffles at the hotel “breakfast bar.”
Maybe we’ll be able to get back to the idea that people should actually be seated at restaurants, and served by wait staff. And who knows? Maybe getting rid of self-serve options will help our economy recover from the government-ordered shutdowns and encourage the hiring of more employees. I’d gladly contribute a nickel or dime of added cost for my cheeseburger to accomplish this greater good and make America the land of the buffet-free.