Pandemic threatens Brazil’s beloved buffets

By Nayara Batschke

São Paulo, Brazil, Jun 2 (EFE).- Self-service buffets conquered the hearts of Brazilians decades ago and rapidly became one of the most popular forms of dining out in the country but the industry is buckling under the coronavirus crisis with customers staying away and revenues drying up.

In commercial areas of São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous and developed city, the usual lines of people outside the popular eateries are gone. In their stead, “for sale” or “for rent” signs adorn the facades of lifeless establishments.

“At first there was a 100% decline in customers and income,” Sonia Mauad, owner of three so-called “per kilo” restaurants, one of which is located at the heart of the city’s financial district.

“Later we were able to operate at around 20-25% at most,” she added.

The drastic plunge in footfall was a result of remote working measures enforced by the authorities as part of their bid to curb Covid-19 infections.

Despite the economic and health crisis, “the bills kept on coming,” Mauad added.

Unable to balance the books, she was forced to close one of her outlets and is currently battling to keep the other two afloat.

 “Local workers account for 99% of the income, so if you lose that, the clientele, you lose pretty much all of your income,” she said.

The number of self-service restaurants in Brazil has dropped from 200,000 to 120,000 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Brazilian bar and restaurant association Abrasel.

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