Goodbye, cheap Strip buffet: Today’s diners are more concerned with quality than price

Courtesy of Riviera

The R Buffet at the Riviera used to be called the World’s Fare Buffet.

Wicked Spoon Buffet

A bowl of bacon at a breakfast area at the Wicked Spoon buffet in the Cosmopolitan Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. Launch slideshow »

In Las Vegas' older days, a "good" buffet meant a cheap buffet.

The judging criteria was simple: the cheaper, the better.

When it comes to buffets today, what qualifies as “the best” has dramatically changed. Now, it’s about the highest quality.

"Twenty years ago, it was about kitschy-ness,” said Jeffrey Frederick, vice president of food and beverage for Caesars Entertainment.

Buffets once were dark, cafeteria-style eateries lined with trays of stacked discount grub baking under heat lamps. Patrons paid next to nothing to stuff themselves silly – a couple of bucks at most – and that’s if casinos didn’t fork over free buffet tickets with a complimentary room.

Throughout the '80s, '90s and early 2000s, buffets were among Las Vegas' biggest loss leaders. That’s when gambling revenue still reigned on the Strip.

Inside the low-value eateries, tourists and locals would pile as much food on their plates as they could, filling up with fried chicken, ribs and corn.

While low-priced buffets still exist – lunch at Circus Circus costs $14.99, and most downtown buffets remain less than $10 – the price tag for food and quality of buffets on the Strip has skyrocketed.

Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace

Tony Pettingill mans the carving station at Bacchanal Buffet in Caesars Palace on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. Launch slideshow »

“The bar has been significantly raised,” Frederick said.

The trend was cemented when the Riviera quietly closed its R Buffet in September. It was the cheapest on the Strip, offering breakfast for $12.99 and dinner for $13.99.

Riviera bosses made no announcement about the change. Insiders say business at the buffet had struggled.

Now, the norm is much pricier fare. The Cosmopolitan’s Wicked Spoon, for example, costs $26 for weekday brunch and $41 for dinner. Dinner at the Wynn buffet will run you $40. Both include prime rib, crab legs and other high-end cuisine.

Then there’s the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, recognized as a game changer in the food and beverage industry. The $17 million restaurant-style buffet, which opened last year, staffs world-class chefs, offers 600 seats and includes a price tag that ranges from $26 for breakfast and $50 for weekend dinner.

Bacchanal looks like a ritzy restaurant and has a menu to back up the atmosphere. Glamorous food stations offer gourmet tacos, pasta and meats prepared in front of guests by a staff of seven sous chefs. Dishes are served on small plates or mini skillets, much like a meal at a fancy restaurant.

The buffet’s opening prompted renovations of the buffets at Aria and the Quad.

“It has become a lot more sophisticated,” said David Schwartz, director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research.

The approach seems to be working, too. More than 3,000 people visit the Bacchanal buffet every day. The line often snakes more than two hours long.

Today’s consumer is more educated than ever and can make smarter decisions about where to eat and spend their money, said Edmond Wong, the Bellagio’s executive chef. The Internet puts thousands of reviews at their fingertips.

As for the future?

Frederick anticipates changes along the Strip will be subtle. Quality will remain a constant. But more options will likely be presented.


Hungry? Below is a list of area buffets compiled with help from Unless otherwise specified, the cost represents the most an adult could expect to pay, including the specialized buffets and weekend prices that tend to be even higher:

Le Village Buffet at Paris

$33.99 or less


Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace

Approximately $20-$40

(877) 346-4642

Bayside Buffet at Mandalay Bay

$29.99 or less


Bistro Buffet at the Palms

$26.99 or less


Buffet At Bellagio



Cannery Row Buffet in North Las Vegas

$14.99 or less


Cannery Row Buffet at Eastside Cannery

$13.99 or less


Carnival World Buffet at Rio

Average prices: $25 to $40


Circus Buffet at Circus Circus

$16.99 or less


Cravings at Mirage



Excalibur Buffet

$22 or less


Feast Around the World Buffet at Green Valley Ranch Resort

$25 or less


Feast Buffet at Red Rock Resort

$25 or less


Feast Buffet at Santa Fe

$15 to $25


Festival Buffet at Fiesta Rancho

$10 or less


Festival Buffet at Fiesta Henderson

$10 or less


Firelight Buffet at Sam's Town

$19.99 or less


Flavors Buffet at Harrah's

Average price: $17.99 to $28.99


Paradise Garden Buffet at Flamingo



Ports O' Call Buffet at Gold Coast

$19.99 or less


Rampart Buffet

$21.99 or less


S7 Buffet at Silver Sevens Hotel

$9.99 or less


Seasons Buffet at Silverton

$21.99 or less


Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood



St. Tropez Buffet at Suncoast

$15.99 or less


Studio B at M Resort

$39.99 or less


The Buffet at Wynn

$39.99 or less


The Buffet at Monte Carlo

$26.99 or less


The Buffet at Stratosphere

$21.61 or less


The Buffet at Golden Nugget

$21.99 or less


The Buffet at LVH

$21.99 or less


The Buffet at TI

$26.95 or less


The Feast Around the World Buffet at Texas Station

$9.99 or less


The Feast at Sunset Station



The Feast Gourmet Buffet at Boulder Station

$9.99 or less


The Feast Gourmet Buffet at Palace Station

$9.99 or less


The Village Seafood Buffet at Rio

Around $40


Todai Seafood & Sushi Buffet at Planet Hollywood

$35.95 or less


Wicked Spoon Buffet at Cosmopolitan

$41 or less


Wild West Buffet at Arizona Charlie's

$11.99 or less


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