Everyone loves the free buffet food in an airline lounge. Frequent flyers flock to these islands of goodness, ready to lock and load another plate full of satisfaction. Imagine pigs at the trough and you will have some idea of the scene.

The pandemic has put the brakes on the free for all. Social distancing means the buffet is gone completely in some cases, while in others it has been replaced by something else.

Where’s My Buffet?

Virgin Australia has just opened a brand new lounge in Adelaide, and instead of the ubiquitous buffet, there is table service. You scan the QR code on your table with your mobile, choose items from the menu that pops up, and staff bring your food to you. There is also a trial of this at the airline’s Melbourne lounge.

The Australian airline is not the first to do this. British Airways operate the same kind of system at their lounges in London Heathrow at the moment, which I experienced in December. I have to say that ordering from a menu and having food and drinks arrive minutes later is very good indeed.

Will Table Service Stay Around?

Quite frankly, the table service option feels far more luxurious than the buffet. There is something about being served food directly that feels right, perhaps it’s because it’s more akin to a restaurant experience.

It’s never fun to see tired food that’s been sitting under heat lamps for god knows how long either. Not to mention witnessing the unwashed hordes all sharing the same utensils to scoop the goop onto their plates. It doesn’t feel very premium, does it?

Having a friendly staff member bring your ordered food to you is far more pleasant. One automatically assumes a kitchen is clean (let’s not get into the reality of that right now – I’ve read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain!) and the food has been prepared just for you.

While potentially cleaner, it also allows the space utilised for a buffet to be repurposed for something else. I would also argue it would reduce food consumption and especially food waste. People will probably think twice about ordering 15 of the same dish to get their moneys worth. Airlines may need more staff, but that really depends, as all people won’t be asking for food all the time.

Overall Thoughts

When it comes to the buffet, I am personally a fan of the more upscale facilities. You know, the ones with little plates or jars of food for you to take back to your seat. That is a cleaner option than the shared greasy spoon.

Regardless of that, table service is more akin to what a lounge tends to advertise, which is a premium experience for an airlines best and most loyal clients. Clearly my vote is for it to stay, as the QR code scan, order and delivery is seamless when done correctly.

What say you? Are you a fan of whacking on a bib and chowing down at the buffet for a couple of hours before your flight? Or would you rather pick and choose from a menu and have it brought to you like a Roman waiting for his servant to peel him a grape? Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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