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End of an era: BC Ferries closes Pacific Buffet

A BC Ferries vessel is seen arriving at Horseshoe Bay near West Vancouver on March 16, 2020. (Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS) A BC Ferries vessel is seen arriving at Horseshoe Bay near West Vancouver on March 16, 2020. (Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

It's a sad day for British Columbians who enjoyed the unlimited food offerings provided by the BC Ferries Pacific Buffet.

On Tuesday, the company announced it would formally be closing the all-you-can-eat food service, which was available on ferries sailing the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route.

BC Ferries initially closed the buffet in March 2020 to follow health safety regulations during the pandemic.

While health regulations lifted over time, the buffet never reopened.

"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," said BC Ferries CEO Nicolas Jimenez.

"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.

BC Ferries will open the Pacific Buffet space to travellers to use as extra seating during the summer season, until a decision is made on what to do with rooms.

Food and drinks will not be served there, but travellers can continue to use the Coastal Café, Seawest Lounge and Arbutus Coffee Bar for food.

BC Ferries has opened a survey to collect feedback on what to do with the Pacific Buffet spaces, with an eye towards something that is sustainable. The survey will close in late June.

BC Ferries says the Pacific Buffet was losing the company more than $1 million annually, and required an additional seven staff members per sailing to run.

The company says the Pacific Buffet was losing approximately $1.2 million annually, and that future price modelling predicted that it would continue to lose even more money over time, even if prices were raised by 30 per cent.

EXPERIMENTAL BEGINNINGS

BC Ferries says it first offered "formal sit-down white tablecloth service dining" in the 1960s.

By 1976, the company says the dining rooms were losing $7 million annually and serving only 10 per cent of passengers, so the table service was ended and replaced with larger onboard cafeterias.

The Pacific Buffet was conceived around this time, serving cold food and pastries, before becoming a full hot buffet in 1979.

BC Ferries says some of the most popular items from the buffet were actually dessert items, including macarons and almond Florentines.

"It wasn’t uncommon to see high-profile British Columbians and celebrities enjoying the buffet, including premiers, ministers and celebrities, including Tom Cochrane, Sarah McLachlan, rapper Ice T and boy band NSYNC," said BC Ferries. 

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