Country Cookin, a 13-unit concept based in Roanoke, Virginia, closed all of its restaurants permanently, as the woes for buffet-style restaurants continue amid the COVID pandemic.
The nearly 40-year-old brand said on its website that Sunday was the final day of operations.
“We are grateful to the many friends, guests, and wonderful employees who have been part of our Country Cookin family over the past four dedcades,” the company wrote on its website. “We pray for health, safety, and a prosperous 2021 for all.”
When the crisis first hit in March, Country Cookin was forced to close dining rooms and switch to a carryout and curbside model. However, by March 23, company president Tom Dodson announced that all locations were temporarily closed and that the brand was no longer offering the to-go program.
Country Cookin reopened its first restaurant on June 10, and had nine locations open by the end of the month. At the time, a new menu was created to serve directly to tables. When Virginia moved to Phase 3 in July, the restaurant resumed self-serve food with its salad bar.
On September 2, Dodson reported that its Madison Heights and Fredericksburg units—open since 2002 and 1981, respectively—had permanently closed. Two weeks later, he announced that four more units were closing to consolidate operations as the brand tried to “persevere through the unprecedented hardships of COVID-19.”
“The devastation to our communities, industry, employees, and company resulting form the pandemic and mandated closures is heartbreaking,” Dodson said in his letter dated September 17. “Company and industry data show the majority of people are not yet comfortable eating at dine-in restaurants. Dramatically lower guest counts combined with skyrocketing food and operations costs, after three months of government mandates and complete closure, have brought us to today.”
A month later, Country Cookin gave notice that it permanently closed all stores.
According to the restaurant’s website, The chain was founded in November 1981 by Roger Smith, a fan of country-style food. The brand continued to grow and service guests after Smith’s death in 1998.
Since the crisis began in March, buffet restaurants have struggled mightily as consumers have become wary of healthy and safety standards within dining rooms.
In May, Garden Fresh Restaurants, parent of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy, surrendering its assets and shuttering all 97 units permanently. Earlier in October, 1069 Restaurant Group, Golden Corral’s largest franchisee, declared bankruptcy. Pizza Inn, which implemented a “Right Way Buffet,” reported that same-store sales were down 39 percent in Q4.