Golden Corral Is Moving Beyond The Buffet

The restaurant chain is expanding, and big changes are in the works.

After cementing itself as the premiere buffet chain to survive the pandemic, Golden Corral has found opportunities to expand its brand. Now, after debuting new restaurant designs for its flagship concept, the company is opening an entirely new fast casual spin-off restaurant equipped with a drive-thru and various on-the-go offerings, Restaurant Dive reports. Welcome to Homeward Kitchen.

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As Nation's Restaurant News reported in May of this year, the first Homeward Kitchen will debut this December in Southern Pines, North Carolina, taking over the space of a shuttered Chick-fil-A. Homeward Kitchen will have space for dine-in, takeout, and a drive-thru, as Golden Corral hopes to attract younger consumers and those otherwise on the go.

Golden Corral’s new Homeward Kitchen restaurant, explained

The initial idea for Homeward Kitchen actually came during the pandemic, when buffets were struggling to stay open and attract customers. The company began tinkering with the idea of a drive-thru for customers to access Golden Corral's food without having to dine in or take from communal serving trays. However, the Homeward Kitchen concept is also a way for Golden Corral franchisees to expand the portfolio, presumably since this type of restaurant has a lower barrier to entry than a large-scale buffet operation. The buffet chain told Restaurant Dive that it has identified at least 500 markets nationwide where Homeward Kitchen would be a good fit.

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"We think Homeward Kitchen can be a staple in every community," Golden Corral Corporation president and CEO Lance Trenary said in a press release. "We've put together an outstanding team to lead the opening of the first Homeward Kitchen, and once we have successfully launched in Southern Pines, we will quickly pursue growth opportunities nationwide."

The new restaurant concept's menu will feature a 12-hour slow-cooked pot roast with homestyle vegetables, fried chicken, a half-pound meatloaf sandwich, Cajun mac and cheese balls, fried green tomatoes, and two varieties of chicken sandwich (Nashville and hot honey). This lineup illustrates that Homeward Kitchen aims to offer the same comfort food Golden Corral customers are used to, just modified for less of a sit-down format. Breakfast items will also be on offer, including sandwiches and bowls, overnight oats, and breakfast bakes.

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"Some of Golden Corral's biggest strengths are our comfort food like fried chicken, meatloaf and pot roast," said Trenary earlier this year to Nation's Restaurant News. "There won't be a buffet in [Homeward Kitchen]. It will strictly be order at the counter, and we'll come bring the curated comfort food to your table."

The new restaurant isn't Golden Corral's only spin-off, either. The company is also testing a full-service steak concept, GC Grill House by Golden Corral, in Florida. The menu features pot roast, fried chicken, and yeast rolls, and new items like Porterhouse steak, filet mignon, grilled pork chops, and shrimp entrees. Obviously, Golden Corral is ready to be more than just the last buffet standing.

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