Buffets, a Las Vegas Strip Tradition People Loved Moves Closer to Their End

Before it became a destination for celebrity chefs, Las Vegas once treated food very differently. The city never lacked high-end restaurants and fancy steakhouses, but those were not what people most closely associated with Sin City.

Before Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, and Bobby Flay helped transform the Las Vegas Strip into the premiere dining location for TV chefs to set up shop, the city was known more for quantity than quality. Las Vegas was a place where casino operators would “comp” mid-tier players a visit to their buffet.

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Pretty much every casino on the Strip had an all-you-can-eat buffet and the quality varied. Caesars Entertainment (CZR) – Get Free Report — before the covid pandemic — even sold buffet passes allowing people to eat at any of its buffets for a full day. Both Caesars and MGM Resorts International (MGM) – Get Free Report had buffets of varying quality, but they were a Las Vegas and Las Vegas Strip signature.

Buffets had begun falling out of favor before the covid pandemic as Las Vegas welcomed more-affordable big-name eateries from Flay, Gordon Ramsay, and Guy Fieri. In addition, Sin City became a destination for regional chains to try to make a national mark.

Basically, the food scene got very crowded, and the idea of eating a not-great meal that was unlimited lost some appeal. Covid hastened the death as the idea of sharing serving utensils and having other people near your food became less palatable.  

That has led to the number of Las Vegas Strip buffets being cut more than in half and the trend now includes a once-popular off-Strip buffet, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Rio will soon no longer be controlled by Caesars Entertainment.

Image source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Another Las Vegas Buffet Will Become a Food Hall

The covid pandemic only gets some of the blame for the slow death of the Las Vegas buffet. The reality is that most of the remaining buffets are high-end experiences (with Excalibur and Circus Circus being noted exceptions. 

“On the Las Vegas Strip, only eight buffets remain (the Bacchanal at Caesars Palace, The Buffet at Bellagio, Wicked Spoon at Cosmopolitan, The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas, the MGM Grand Buffet, the Buffet at Excalibur, the Circus Buffet at Circus Circus, and The Buffet at Luxor) where 18 once stood,” Casino.org reported.

Until recently, there was also still a buffet space at Rio, which remained closed since the pandemic, but no decision on its future had been made. That has changed as the property is about to switch hands from Caesars to Dreamscape. The new operator actually bought the property in 2019, but Caesars has continued to run it with the new owner taking over fully in 2023.

Dreamscape has shared news on the fate of the buffet which will be replaced by a “world-class food hall that we think will deliver an exceptional alternative to the former Carnival World Buffet,” the company shared in a statement.

Dreamscape Has Big Plans For Rio

The new owner of the all-suite, off-Strip Rio has raised $850 million. Some of that will be invested in a major overhaul of the property. Dreamscape is calling the changes a “reimagining” and made it clear that the property won’t close while work is being done.

Once it takes over, Dreamscape’s plans for Rio involve “restoring it into a premiere resort and casino experience with modernized amenities and an array of offerings that speak to today’s gaming and hospitality consumer,” the company said in a news release.

It has not been confirmed if Rio will remain a part of the Caesars booking platform and its loyalty rewards program. The casino marks Dreamscape’s first attempt to run a casino, so it’s not out of the question that the new owner could make a deal with the previous one to keep those programs in place.

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