Don’t Roll the Dice with Your Casino Buffet Menu
These ‘seven tenets’ by experts should help you create an experience your guests will remember.
In between slots and busted blackjack hands, hungry casino-goers claw for the house’s culinary options. The casino’s culinary staple—the buffet—must be ready for influx, a taxing 24-hour service time, culinary trends and differentiation for that captive audience.
The key? Doing a buffet right. But what does that mean?
We spoke with industry veterans David Crabtree, executive chef at Island View Casino in Gulfport, Miss., and Demetrio “Chef D” Marquez, a corporate executive chef with Reinhart, for their insights. With that, we present the “seven tenets of (successful) casino culinary operations.” If you’re in the kitchen of a casino or serve regular buffets, this is for you.
Know Thy Customer
Chef Crabtree tailors his buffet to his customer base, which is an older, Southern crowd looking for Creole and Cajun flavor profiles. He leaves comment cards and conducts monthly guest surveys, staying on top of what the customer wants.
Part of a buffet’s business rub is controlling cost and waste. Being specific to seasons, like buying squash in the summer vs. the winter, can help keep costs down and prompt creative menu ideas—not to mention freshness.
When trying to offer higher quality foods, use micro pans (smaller, which keeps food fresh), avoid fried as it tends to “age” poorly under heat lamps and garnish creatively. Chef Crabtree adds tri-colored tortillas across the top of fish dishes.
Know Thy Forecast
Intel is crucial. Rising food costs, wasted inventory and service issues can kill your bottom line. Chef D suggests buddying up with the hotel or resort operations director. Know room occupancy, what groups or conferences are in town, and what festivals or events are happening in the community.
Feature Action Stations
Carved prime rib or flank steak. Brick-oven, hand-tossed pizzas at buffet side. A seafood buffet section. Omelet station. Quality and trendy food presented intimately to the customer will add immediate value to your buffet. Figure out what makes sense to your operation.
Bring Creative Sweetness
Offering something that looks good and tastes good is always a hit. People love sweets. Dessert innovations allow for epic additions to buffets—like a chocolate fondue fountain with fresh fruits and sweet for dipping.
Work with Thy Distributor!
Holding hands with your distributor—as Chef D highly recommends—can help with all the above. As a culinary thought partner, operators can focus on their guests and operations, while a distributor partner can help with forecasting, food costs, seasonality and back-of-house innovations.