A few customers were at the door of the Golden Corral on Barrett Parkway when it opened at 11. By 11:45 a.m., more than 100 people were in the eatery, which got a perfect 100 score from health inspectors earlier this week.
"We've been coming here for a long time. We really like eating here," said Dewey Lecroy of Marietta, who was with his wife, Mary. The couple said they were not concerned about risk.
From early June through late August, 23 people were infected with the bacteria salmonella berta, according to the Georgia Division of Public Health. Seventeen were interviewed and had a history of eating at the Golden Corral, just west of Town Center mall, including one Georgia resident with underlying health conditions who died. The restaurant closed voluntarily Sept. 9, and health inspectors began looking at equipment in the kitchen the next day.
While health officials found no trace of the bacteria during inspections on Aug. 21 and 22, the hunt last week found salmonella berta in the floor drain, said Richard Quartarone, spokesman for the Georgia Division of Public Health.
Health officials think the bacteria probably was on a piece of equipment and was washed into a floor drain when the equipment was cleaned.
Salmonellosis -- marked by fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea -- is caused by one of 2,000 strains of the salmonella bacteria. Symptoms generally occur one to three days after exposure but can be delayed as long as a week. Salmonellosis generally is not life-threatening but can be fatal in the elderly or people with depressed immune systems.
Charles Winston, who owns a dozen Golden Corral's in the metro area, said he hoped the outbreak would not hurt his business over the long term.
"My guess is, we'll do well," he said.
The restaurant serves about 725,000 meals a year, said Winston.