LAS VEGAS — Budget buffet dining may be on the way out.
Station Casinos are where many locals love to go to gamble all day and fill up on bottomless food at an affordable price, but maybe not anymore.
Station Casinos wouldn't directly admit to 13 Action News that they're not planning to bring back buffets. But in a recent earnings call, Frank Fertitta, the CEO of Red Rock Resorts Inc., said, "We’re going to put the dollars into the place where we make money. It’s going to be a focus on slot machines and table games, our primary business. We’ll have several restaurant options. We will not have a buffet."
The company's CFO, Stephen Cootey, went on to say, "I’m going to say ex-buffet because obviously, it would be down year-over-year because of the buffet, which I think we can fairly say will never return."
For locals, it's a big loss.
"That really sucks, not good to hear," said Justin, who lives in Las Vegas.
"We like the Station Casinos ones because of the price, it’s a good price," he added. "I like the food. I liked to take the family there. It used to be one of our weekly things or biweekly things that we used to do."
The news is even worse for workers who were laid off during the pandemic and may not get their jobs back.
"I worry because we used to be full-time. Right now, it's not full-time positions. It's gonna take us years to get the full-time [positions]," said Cristina Lopez, a former buffet worker at Texas Station.
"Traditionally, this was a way to keep players at the casinos so they didn’t have to go eat somewhere else. It was also a great way of giving players freebies," said Scott Roeben, founder of Vital Vegas.
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He says it's sad to hear Station buffets aren't coming back, but not surprising.
"The cost is lower, but there’s a reason for that. It’s because the casino tends to subsidize the buffet like they do other things. That’s just going away and the casinos aren’t willing to take that hit anymore. They’re watching their margins more closely than ever," said Roeben.
He says casinos have been using COVID-19 as an excuse to eliminate freebies and he doesn't see budget buffets coming back any time soon.
"Station's looking around and seeing that these are not making us money. If locals were willing to pay $45, $50 for a buffet, then they'd bring them back, but they aren’t. They know their customer and they know they’re just not going to go for that kind of price point," said Roeben.
Culinary Union Local 226 says this is exactly why it's pushing the state legislature to pass S.B. 386.
A union spokesperson sent 13 Action News a statement that reads:
"A Right to Return law would prevent employers from using a global pandemic to get rid of older workers in shameful attempt to force them into early retirement. It would be an injustice to kick long-term frontline employees, who have contributed to Nevada’s success for decades, to the curb once the pandemic is over. SB386 also includes a provision allowing a laid off employee to return to a similar job at their workplace as long as they are qualified or would be qualified with additional training. A Right to Return legislation is a common-sense measure that is urgently needed to create stability in Nevada’s workforce. The Culinary Union urges the Nevada Legislature to stand with working families and pass Senate Bill 386."