End of an Era: Rio Walls Off Former Buffet to Make Way for Food Hall

A formerly renowned Las Vegas buffet, Carnival World Buffet at Rio, is being walled off to make way for a food court.

Technically, food hall.

Despite what you might think, this is the most exciting thing to happen at Rio in a very long time.

The closure of the Carnival World Buffet saved countless crabs and their legs.

Why is a wall exciting? Because it symbolizes the beginning of a new era for the long-neglected off-Strip resort.

It’s a little bittersweet, as many pine for the days of yore when cheap buffets were bountiful and synonymous with Sin City.

Out with the old, in with the new, we say.

In a fun example of the circularity of the universe, the construction wall at the Carnival World Buffet is being built by none other than Marnell LLC. The Marnells built the Rio back in 1998, and they’re going to be doing the hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations coming to Rio under its current ownership, Dreamscape. Read more.

Another fun fact: The food hall construction wall will cost $22,000.

We were surprised to see this work beginning, as Caesars Entertainment still manages the operations of Rio, and Caesars hasn’t invested more than a dozen dollars in the resort in years.

Clearly, Dreamscape and Marnell are champing at the bit to move the project forward, so Caesars Entertainment apparently signed off on starting work prior to the operation contract with Caesars officially ending.

Caesars Entertainment is expected to hand over operations of Rio to Dreamscape in 2023, but not before completely ruining the reputation of the place first. Don’t get us started.

Food halls, of course, are the new buffets.

Rio’s Carnival World Buffet was probably the most famous Vegas buffet in its heyday. The buffet did a major renovation in 2014.

Longtime Vegas visitors will recall Rio once had a Village Seafood Buffet, too. That separate buffet, in the vicinity of what is now Kiss minigolf, eventually merged with the Carnival World Buffet.

If you look closely, the seafood buffet’s sign had an “Easter egg,” a Las Vegas hooker. Insiders will tell you it’s a clever nod to Rio’s casino bar.

Over time, Las Vegas casinos realized buffets lose money. The CEO of Caesars Entertainment, Tom Reeg, said the company’s Las Vegas buffets lost an average of $3 million a year.

Casinos had long considered closing buffets to save money, then the pandemic provided easy cover.

Rio’s buffet closed when everything else did in Las Vegas, March 2020, and the Carnival World Buffet never reopened.

There are still a number of buffets open in Las Vegas, but few match the sheer size and fame of Rio’s Carnival World Buffet. It symbolized decadence and excess and value.

Unlike most buffets, food courts actually generate revenue.

We poked Rio to see what tenants will be moving into the hotel’s upcoming food hall, but we haven’t made any headway yet.

The new food hall is just the beginning of the rebirth of Rio, and we honestly can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Beyond the resort itself, there have been discussions about a ballpark coming to the Rio site, which would be a master stroke on the part of Dreamscape and catapult this casino from being a sad shell of its former self to a sparkly, vibrant Las Vegas destination and one of the best Las Vegas comeback stories of all time.

Let’s go, Rio.


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