Ferry feedback: Survey seeks thoughts on Pacific Buffet replacement

Ferry feedback: Survey seeks thoughts on Pacific Buffet replacement
Photo: BC Ferries
The Pacific Buffet was an amenity offered on the Spirit ferries prior to March 2020.

BC Ferries has launched a second survey to gauge public input on what kind of food and beverage outlet should replace the now-shuttered Pacific Buffet.

The eatery, which was in S-class ferries on the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route, was shut down in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and BC Ferries decided to keep it permanently closed because costs were exceeding revenue.

The closure of the all-you-can-eat buffet was “a difficult decision,” according to BC Ferries in June.

“In the last year the Pacific Buffet operated, it attracted less than nine per cent of the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route’s 4.87 million passengers and lost approximately $1.2 million annually,” it said in a news release.

Price modelling done by BC Ferries found that even a 30 per cent price hike wouldn’t be enough, due to the increased cost of food and labour.

Seven employees were needed per shift.

“The food industry has been significantly challenged by the pandemic; fewer food suppliers, supply chain unreliability, new attitudes about food safety and waste as well as record high food costs have forced all businesses to rethink their strategies,” said Nicolas Jimenez, BC Ferries’ CEO.

Customers want ‘high-quality food options,’ says BC Ferries

So in June, the company launched its first survey seeking feedback on customer preferences and ideas for a new onboard amenity.

More than 10,000 people responded, says BC Ferries in a release last week.

Many indicated they wanted a space that was “special and distinct” from the Seawest Lounge and cafeteria spaces already on this route, and specific feedback mentioned the want for high-quality food options like plated entrees, desserts and artisan foods, as well as unique views and comfortable seats.

BC Ferries also explored alternatives, including a sports bar, onboard casino, wedding and private reception space and gym and spa, but these options either didn’t fit the company’s brand or there wasn’t enough demand or favourable feedback. 

Now the company is “taking a deeper dive” into buffet replacement input with another survey, which is open for two weeks.

It’s “designed to further understand customers’ interests in menu items as well as pricing format,” said BC Ferries. “In the meantime, food and beverage services remain available in the Coastal Café, Seawest Lounge and Arbutus Coffee Bar.”

The second survey is here.

-with files from CHEK’s Laura Brougham

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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