Rogersville firefighters were on the scene quickly thanks to two police officers, George Henry and Pat Johnson, who spotted the flames coming through the roof and called 911 shortly before 2 p.m.
The officers had been at another store in the strip mall and noticed the flames before the restaurant employees.
Assistant Fire Chief David Jackson said the fire started on the grill in the Peking Buffet kitchen and quickly spread up through the vent into the ductwork and into the attic.
Firefighters were on the scene within three minutes with three pumpers and a ladder truck, which was used to battle the blaze from the roof.
With firefighters working in the kitchen and from the roof, the fire was brought under control quickly before any of the adjacent businesses were damaged.
Smoke spread through the facility, however, and every store from the Dollar Store south to the end of the building had to be evacuated.
"It really could have been a lot worse," Jackson said. "If we hadn't gotten there when we did, the fire might have spread through the attic and into the other stores."
Jackson said there was extensive fire and water damage to the restaurant kitchen and some damage to the roof, although he said the roof damage was not as bad as might be expected.
"The roof needs repairs, but it's still structurally sound," he said.
"There was some smoke damage to the dining room, but they should be able to clean it up and reopen," Jackson added.
There were patrons in the restaurant eating at the time of the fire, but they and the employees made it out safely, and no injuries were reported.