Golden Corral takes a step away from the buffet

The new fast-casual Homeward Kitchen concept is finally getting ready to open in December.
A rendering of Golden Corral's new fast-casual concept coming to North Carolina. | Rendering courtesy of Golden Corral

Golden Corral is getting ready for its fast-casual debut. But that doesn't mean it plans to move away from the buffet format.

The company's first Homeward Kitchen, a fast-casual spinoff that will not be a buffet, is scheduled to open in Southern Pines, N.C., in December.

The long-awaited concept, which is opening in a former Chick-fil-A location, will feature dine in, takeout, delivery and drive-thru options with a menu of “slow cooked, served fast family favorites.” Guests will order at the counter and the roughly 4,000-square-foot unit will seat about 100.

The target audience will be busy families and guests on the go, the company said. Prices will start around $5.99 for lunch/dinner and there are a full line of entrees expected to be under $14. The menu will also offer options for feeding large groups and take-home feasts.

“We see an opportunity to provide wholesome, craveable food for families on the go,” said Golden Corral Corp. President and CEO Lance Trenary, in a statement. “Homeward Kitchen is the perfect way to enjoy a delicious, satisfying meal that fits in with the busy pace of everyday life.”

Southern Pines will be the first location for the brand, but the company is already thinking about expansion.

“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,” Trenary said.

On the menu will be traditional homestyle classics, like slow-cooked pot roast with vegetables, fried chicken, a meatloaf sandwich, Nashville and Hot Honey Dipped chicken sandwiches, and Cajun Mac & Cheese Balls. For dessert: banana pudding.

Homeward Kitchen will also serve the morning daypart with breakfast sandwiches and bowls, as well as overnight oats and Breakfast Bakes, along with Costa Coffee.

Founded in 1973 in Fayetteville, N.C., Golden Corral is known for its abundant buffets. Buffet concepts were hit particularly hard during the pandemic and many predicted their demise, but Golden Corral defied the trends.

In fiscal 2022, Golden Corral saw systemwide sales of about $1.4 billion, up more than 21% over the prior year, with about 362 units, almost all franchised, according to sister brand Technomic.

The company launched Homeward Kitchen to give franchisees another smaller-footprint option for growth. Future units will be franchised and will target locations between 3,000- and 3,500-square feet.

The company also opened another new full-service spinoff concept called GC Grill House in Lake Placid, Fla. Company officials said they are pleased with results from that family-friendly steakhouse, but there no immediate plans for expansion.

UPDATE: This article has been updated with new information from Golden Corral.

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