BC Ferries Drops All-You-Can-Eat Buffets From Voyages; Launches Customer Survey

BC Ferries Drops All-You-Can-Eat Buffets From Voyages; Launches Customer Survey
A ferry passes Bowen travels on Howe Sound from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale, B.C., in a file photo. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)
The Canadian Press
Buffet meals on BC Ferries, put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, will no longer be available on voyages between the mainland and Vancouver Island.

The company says in a statement the all-you-can-eat breakfasts, lunches and dinners with roast beef, salmon and unlimited desserts are money losers and the search is on for something new.

Nicolas Jimenez, BC Ferries chief executive, said the decision to close the buffets will be disappointing to some customers but the time has arrived to find new options for the dining room, which has been vacant since the pandemic.

“The food industry has been significantly challenged by the pandemic; fewer food suppliers, supply chain unreliability, new attitudes about food safety and waste as well as record high food costs have forced all businesses to rethink their strategies,” Jimenez said in a statement.

“I know the hard decision to permanently close our buffets will be disappointing to those who used and loved them, but the timing is right to re-think the space based on what our customers tell us,” he said.

The buffet, which lost more than one million dollars annually and required seven crew members for each sailing, would continue to lose money even if prices were increased by 30 percent, Deborah Marshall, BC Ferries public affairs spokeswoman, said in an interview.

“People are changing the way they like to dine since the pandemic,” she said. “People are not interested in touching the same utensils that somebody else has touched. Lots of factors have gone into this decision and we just want to move forward.”

BC Ferries has launched a customer feedback survey on what could be done with the space after exploring concepts that include a sports bar, casino, gym and private reception area, said Marshall, adding the current dining room space will be used over the summer to accommodate passenger seating.
She said BC Ferries expects to unveil a new dining experience this fall in the previous buffet area.
BC Ferries said in its statement that when the buffet was serving meals, it was not uncommon to see prime ministers, premiers and celebrities in the dining room, including entertainers Tom Cochrane, Sarah McLaughlin, rapper Ice-T and boy band NSYNC.