BC Ferries officially closes popular, but money losing, Pacific Buffet

CHEK

BC Ferries announced Tuesday that the closure of the Pacific Buffet was permanent, and it’s to the dismay of loyal fans.

No amount of love for the seafood chowder will keep the buffet open after it initially closed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It operated at an annual loss of more than $1 million, according to BC Ferries.

“The buffet was wonderful. All kinds of food. Loved going there,” a former buffet patron said.

Travellers at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal have positive memories of eating at the Pacific Buffet.

“I think it’s unfortunate. I used to enjoy it. It was a nice sort of haven at the front of the ship,” said one traveller.

For the next three weeks, customers can offer suggestions on what to do with the space via an online survey, according to BC Ferries’ executive director of public affairs Deborah Marshall.

“To staff the buffet on one shift takes seven employees,” Marshall told CHEK News.

“So you times by two shifts a day, three vessels that operate the buffet. Then with relief staff, it’s about 80 employees that we need to operate that buffet service.”

And some options are already off the table.

“We have had suggestions in the past for a casino, for example. There is some security issues around that. And different reasons why we wouldn’t go with a casino option,” Marshall said.

“In the past, we have had spa services onboard. We’ve trialled that, but it didn’t go over all that well.”

The last year the buffet operated, it sold more than 430,000 meals on three vessels. That’s less than nine percent of the 4.8 million customers who took those ferries.

And even if it raised prices by 30 per cent, and sold a record amount of clam chowder, it would still lose money.

“It’s been a few years, of course, since I’ve used it, but I really did enjoy it,” a former buffet patron added.

It’ll reopen as a food outlet in the fall, just not in the beloved all-you-can-eat format.

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Mary Griffin

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