KITCHENER -- Restaurants usually offering buffets are adapting to a new business model due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indoor dining was allowed to start again under Stage 3 of the province's reopening plan, but buffets were kept off the menu. The government said long line ups and self-service are too dangerous due to COVID-19.

The decision has been a blow to businesses in Waterloo Region that have operated under the buffet model for a long time.

Classic Indian said the buffet was a large part of their lunch and dinner business, but the restaurant has made changes to stay open.

"We are going to come up with some options like lunch specials, where we are going to have a lot of variety," said Thiru Maran with Classic Indian.

Caterers are also suffering. Paragon Banquet & Catering has had a tough year, since the company is only able to serve smaller groups of fewer than 50 people. The caterer is also working smaller events to get by.

"If you have a small event at home, let's say 20 to 30 people, we can deliver the food to you," said Karen Dersarkissian with Paragon Banquet.

George Kanellis, the general manager of Golf's Steak House, said changing their business model is better than closing completely. They've shut down their Sunday buffet and salad bar, but are optimistic about the future.

"We're hoping the first step would be, we'd be able to serve behind the food," Kanellis said.

Experts said buffets could be a hot bed for viruses. While there's no evidence of transmitting the virus through food, self-serving does mean everyone using the same utensils.

"People touch those utensils and then touch their face or mouth, especially considering they will be eating," said Lawrence Goodridge, a food safety professor at the University of Guelph.

Lineups and congregating around food stations also pose a risk.

"Physical distancing would be hard to maintain," Goodridge said.

Goodridge suggested food coverings, sneeze guards and close monitors when buffets are allowed to reopen. He also said it's not necessarily the end of the buffet industry for good, but it may be a while before people return to a traditional method of self-serving.