Souplantation, the popular buffet-style dining brand founded in San Diego 42 years ago, is closing all of its restaurants permanently, a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic that is likely to be the death knell for all self-serve eateries.
The permanent closing of the 97 restaurants, including 44 in California, was announced Thursday after weeks of efforts to salvage San Diego-based Garden Fresh Restaurants, the parent company of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes. The closing will mean lost jobs for 4,400 employees.
“The FDA had previously put out recommendations that included discontinuing self-serve stations, like self-serve beverages in fast food, but they specifically talked about salad bars and buffets,” said John Haywood, chief executive of Garden Fresh. “The regulations are understandable, but unfortunately, it makes it very difficult to reopen. And I’m not sure the health departments are ever going to allow it.
“We could’ve overcome any other obstacle, and we’ve worked for eight weeks to overcome these intermittent financial challenges, but it doesn’t work if we are not allowed to continue our model.”