I won't forget my first time at Vikings. I was patiently standing behind a Manila tita at the sashimi counter. She was taking her sweet time, plucking slippery cubes of orange fish off the plate. In the end, she decided that it was much easier to take the entire dish. I was left there standing in disbelief, hoping that the next service wouldn't take too long.
This is the Vikings effect: the kind that makes you endure-and enjoy-giant Viking hats when what seems like the entire restaurant staff sings you "Happy Birthday" (then they do it to the next table, then the next). It's a place where celebration is indulgent but affordable, where your appetite is stretched as well as your hunger, greed (sorry, Tita), and satisfaction.
But buffets are no longer allowed in the near future of the post-pandemic world. What happens to Vikings?
The Vikings reopned on June 16. The first branch that reopened was in Megamall. Gone are the days of birthday Viking hats and subtle hoarding. In the new normal, Vikings booths are enclosed in glass. You can still "order all you can," but it has to be done via a checklist that will be used only once per order.
"The pandemic has definitely hit us hard, industry-wide actually, but that did not stop us from servicing our customers," said Jackson Go to Esquire Philippines. During the first few weeks of the pandemic, the Vikings team was mobilized to feed frontliners.
"We then started launching delivery service for some of our ala carte brands, such as Putien, Monga, and La Vita, to test the waters on doing this new type of operations (in our case)," said Go. Eventually, the group was able to come up with Viking's food trays.
"Our customers loved it as they were able to feast with our award-winning dishes from the comfort of their home at an affordable price," he added. Viking's is also continuing to strengthen its takeaway service so its staff can work again. "The past few months proved challenging for us and our staff due to limitations in transportation and closure of malls. We were unable to provide them the income for their family."
As per new protocols, Viking's can only operate with a 50-percent capacity. The outlets are decked out in dividers and tools to check body temperature. Staff will wear PPEs and customers need to submit health declaration forms. There's also an increased frequency in sanitation.
"We will create new exciting dishes and promotions to cater to the needs of our customers," Go assured.
Its new checklist format, which promises the same all-you-can-eat experience but with reduced contact, was designed for safety. "We also minimize the high contamination risk on our buffet utensils as all dishes will be prepared and served with the new food and health sanitation guidelines in mind," he added.
It's not the same Vikings, but it's not the same world either. "Customers might not be used to it in the beginning, but they will definitely appreciate the innovation we took to work around the situation while offering them high-quality food and service," said Go.
View Vikings new setup: