Did Casinos Bring The Buffet To America?
We’ve all eaten at a buffet at least a few times in our life, right?
They’re still a pretty common sight all over America; lines of people waiting to load their plates up with twelve different kinds of food strictly based on whatever they’re in the mood for right in that second (and enough stuff to go back for if they change their mind).
You see them at restaurants, you’ve probably made awkward small talk in line for one at a wedding, and, perhaps more to the point, they remain a fixture of casinos, such as our Bistro 555 buffet. But here’s something you might not already know: are these buffets only around because of casinos?
Historical evidence seems to suggest it! What we know as a ‘buffet’ has its roots in France and Sweden, stemming from the Swedish concept of a ‘smorgasboard’ that offered a wide range of food choices all at once. The first American example of a buffet didn’t arrive until the 1939 World’s Fair, and even then the concept didn’t quite take root.
Fast forward a little bit to the mid 1940s. A gentleman named Herb McDonald (no relation to that McDonald’s, but it’s funny to see him still connected to the restaurant business) who worked for the El Rancho Vegas, one of the very first casino-hotels on the Vegas Strip, was trying to come up with a way to provide food quickly and in great quantities to his late-night guests that were hanging around gaming with nothing to eat. His initial solution was to grab a pile of bread, cheese, and cold cuts, and lay them out across the bar for everyone to take from as they wanted. It was an immediate hit, and after a while McDonald expanded the concept to include a Western-style “chuck wagon” assortment of cold cuts, hot dishes, and barbecue offerings.
While the idea of dining in a casino was nothing new, a lot of other casino owners (many of them previously unfamiliar with the concept of a buffet) latched onto the idea and started offering their own late-night buffet dining options, generally based around similar menu options and set to be open later than other restaurant options.
Over the next few decades this idea would gradually leave casinos and turn into stand-alone restaurants that offer buffets, or even buffet options alongside standard menu fare (but who would order from the menu when you have a whole buffet right there?), even reaching the point where non-buffet restaurants like Pizza Hut started to offer buffets to get in on the fun.
While they might not quite be as common now as they were in the 80s and 90s, buffets are still a common sight in both restaurants and casinos. Matter of fact, our Bistro 555 was recently awarded Best Casino Buffet in Detroit by Metro Times magazine, so if you’re feeling hungry (or nostalgic) why not take a trip to our casino buffet and see what we’ve got cooked up?