Local health department responds to buffet catering issues during pandemic

NORFOLK, Va. – Rajput Indian Cuisine has been serving Indian cuisine at its Norfolk restaurant for 20 years. They say the lunch buffet was popular before the pandemic and allowed newcomers to Indian cuisine to try different dishes to see what they liked.

Last week, the restaurant reopened its lunch buffet for the first time since closing last year when the pandemic began.

“Everything is cleaned several times. All the spoons and forks and everything are changed several times. All the plates are changed several times,” says manager Nipun Chhabra.

In addition to increasing cleaning measures, the family restaurant has made other changes. For $14.99, customers get a large plate called a Thali Tray to pile on as much food as they want, but customers can now only take one trip down the line to help reduce waste.

In addition, gloves are offered for those who want them; however, the Chesapeake Health Department says touching the same utensils as others is not a cause for concern.

“Many studies have not found the virus to be transmitted by inanimate contact of utensils and things; there haven’t been many examples of what’s actually happening,” said Jason Williams, supervisor of the Chesapeake Health Department’s Food and Environmental Health Program.

The health department says the buffets are safe for vaccinated people. It is recommended to follow CDC guidelines for those who are not vaccinated.

“Where we are now with the buffet style, I think we’re getting closer to the level of security you would have before the pandemic now,” Williams said.

The return of the buffet is one step closer to returning to the restaurant’s normal routine, and customers like Julian Valadez are welcoming its return.

“Everyone is going to decide their own level of risk, but as long as, you know, an establishment or a restaurant takes the appropriate measures, I think everyone can look at those measures and decide where their personal comfort level is,” said Validate.

Valadez says being vaccinated also made him feel safe returning to the buffet.

Rajput says all their staff are also vaccinated and recommends people always wear masks.

The restaurant says it expects there will be a gradual transition to seeing all the same faces for lunch as before.

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