BC Ferries is asking passengers for feedback on what to put onboard the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route after deciding to permanently close the Pacific buffet.
BC Ferries was initially forced to suspend the buffet service in March 2020 due to COVID-19.
While the decision is being made about what to do with the space, the buffet dining room will be open to provide extra seating during the peak summer travel season. Food and beverage services will remain available in the Coastal Café, Seawest Lounge and Arbutus Coffee Bar through the peak summer season.
According to BC Ferries, pre-pandemic, the buffet required seven staff members per sailing, or more than 80 crew in total and lost about $1.2 million annually.
And, price modelling found the buffet would continue to lose money even with a price hike of up to 30% due to the increased costs of food and labour.
In the last year the service operated, it attracted less than 9% of the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route’s 4.87 million passengers.
“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.
“I know the hard decision to permanently close our buffets will be disappointing to those who used and loved them but the timing is right to re-think the space based on what our customers tell us.”
The online survey will be open for three weeks asking people for ideas on what to replace it with a new offering is expected to be introduced to customers this fall.
Some options already explored include a sports bar, on-board casino, wedding and private reception space, and a gym and spa service, which all had issues around insufficient demand, unfavourable feedback, brand inconsistency or to much regulatory burden.