Glenn Weaver Jr. calls the Shady Maple Smorgasbord “the Disney World of food.”
Since its opening in 1985, the East Earl facility has become the county’s biggest and busiest eatery.
It has 1,200 seats in its main dining area plus 1,000 more seats in a banquet room.
Last year the smorgasbord served a near-record 1.4 million customers, up 2 percent from the prior year.
The huge number of customers translates into huge volumes of food. Last year, for instance, the smorgasbord served more than 750,000 eggs and more than 100,000 pounds of bacon — that’s 50-plus tons.
This year is starting strong, with customer counts up 11 percent from the same period in 2014.
Not only popular with local residents, the Route 23 business draws heavily from the rest of Pennsylvania as well as surrounding states.
“It’s a destination, not just a place,” said Weaver, chief financial officer and chief operating officer of the smorgasbord’s parent firm, Shady Maple Companies.
“People think of (the smorgasbord) when they want to go out and spend time with family and celebrate. It’s part of our mission statement — we want to create experiences of joy and celebration.”
Weaver attributes the appeal of the smorgasbord to its affordable prices and the value that gives to customers.
Part of that value is the expansive menu.
The buffet line is 200 feet long, with an emphasis on Pennsylvania Dutch items. The smorgasbord also has four six-foot-wide grills.
“There’s no way you can taste everything, even in two visits,” said Marvin Weaver, co-founder and chief executive officer of Shady Maple Companies.
Another part of that value is the smorgasbord’s free meal to people on their birthday. The smorgasbord served 95,853 free birthday meals last year.