Friday, November 24, 2006

The Worst Old Country Buffet

The worst Old Country Buffet restaurant has to be the one in Levittown, New York.

We have been visiting this restaurant since it opened a number of years ago. It has had its ups and downs - mostly downs. The problems all seem to come down to management - and not just the on the spot supervisors (who have their problems) but the general manager of the restaurant. Since they have opened there have been several general managers. Some have been better than others, but none seem to get the idea of anticipating the number of guests that they are likely to have on any one particular day - especially days on or before holidays. These are days and nights that I (if I were the restaurant manager) would expect a larger than usual crowd and make the necessary arrangements to have enough of the day's menu on hand. The managers here never anticipate the crowd.

We have frequently gone to the restaurant on Sunday nights. There is always a crowd and the crowd stretches into the later part of the evening. People are still coming in at 8 and 8:30. They close at 9. By 7 to 7:30 pm most items are gone, especially the carvings, which are the main feature of the Sunday menu. Many of the trays are empty and they are either not refilled or they are refilled with a non-comparable item. For example, pork chops are gone and they are replaced with a vegetable.

Now, here is an interesting twist. A few weeks ago, on a Sunday night, trays remained empty through the entire time that we were dining. Carvings were gone as well. By 8:30 no one new had come into the restaurant. At 8:45 pm the employees began to set up tables for themselves to prepare to eat. Suddenly, as most of the guests were leaving, trays started to come out and be restocked. Carvings made their first appearance in over an hour. Now, who was going to be eating all this - you guessed it - the employees. They all ran up to the buffet tables and began filling plates of all of the menu items that had not been out for hours. We may be inclined to blame these employees, but you really need to blame their supervisor. Why wasn't the manager on duty that night actively making sure that all trays and carvings were available for the guests all night? It was not because they were out of them - as they all were brought out as the guests were leaving. This is not a one time happening. We have observed it again since that night. If it has happened twice - it happens a lot.

Often there will be no one at the carving station to carve. Guest will line up waiting for an employee to come over and carve - no one comes. The line disappears as no one wants to wait when nothing is going to happen.

There are nights when no one picks up dirty dishes from the tables until the guests are leaving Stacks of dishes pile up and the server is cleaning empty tables. (I must say that there are two very good servers working here, a man and a woman, who both make sure that every dish is picked up as soon as they can get to it - but this is just two, of many.)

The restaurant floors are also not kept clean throughout the day and night. Anything that falls pretty much remains there in the dining area until the end of the night. No one ever seems to clean under that tables until closing. I once was there with my four year old neice who told me that the restaurant was dirty. Well, if a four year old can make this determination, how come the restaurant manager is unaware (or does not care).

It is not just late night that problems occur. We have been in at early dinner hour and we have been in for lunch. It is never much better.

So why do we return? The next nearest buffet restaurant (other than Chinese buffet) is more than twenty five miles away. So if we want to eat buffet there is no alternative.

So what does one do? We have made complaints to the central office via their website. Know what? You get no response - ever! We have gone to the manager on duty - you sometimes get an apology and an attempt to fix the problem - but there get to be oh, so many problems.

So I get to complain to you all! I am sure there are stories about other buffets that you can relate - post a comment and tell us. I know from previous comments that there are some regular or semi-regular readers who have been to this particular restaurant - some often. If they have a comment or would like to disagree, post a comment. The best thing would be if someone from this Old Country Buffet or better yet, the central office would read this and post a response. Let's see.


Columbus Foodie said...

I think this is a problem among buffets across the country. In our family, it's common knowledge that you never visit a buffet after the dinner rush is over, as quality (and the chance that empty items are refilled) goes down exponentially the closer it gets to closing time. This is especially true with our local Chinese buffets. The only place I haven't seen this be the case was the Shady Maple smorgasboard in Lancaster Co, PA. But this one sounds even worse than my local OCB, which I banned years ago because they sucked so bad. Luckily, I come from a town where buffets are a dime a dozen.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I work at an Old Country Buffet in PA. I'm a certified trainer as a line server, meaning I stock and refill and keep the bars clean. I take pride in my work, I work hard and I too am vry annoyed with peoples lack of work ethics. It's not a surprise to hear of your situation, although the employees eating at night sound weird to me, we pay for our meals and do not eat at closing time where I am. Heaven forbid I leave my bar, and my GM states, " We do not serve stainless steel." I beleive we are also the third busiest OCB in the east. Anyway, if you want to see the best, come to us in Whitehall, PA. I have regular customers who come and know my name. And as far as I've known, we've never run out of pork chops... although they have changed how we make our pork chops now since we have a new promo out they're grilled.

But, that was a lot of digression there. To the point, it's not OCB itself, and I don't know why no one replied to you, But I copied your comment and I plan to take it into work.

Most the problems we have arrise at our OCB I think stem from the younger kids that are hired and their lack of experience. How old are these people at your OCB?

Robert A said...

The employees at the Levittown OCB are not kids - they are in their thirties and older.

Take a look at my article - What employees should not say (Aug '07)) to see more horror stories (perhaps the ultimate)about that OCB. The managers are still there. Someone new appeared recently who has made an effort to walk around the dining room - but he has not done much for the many problems that exist.

Anonymous said...

I work at an OCB in Michigan and they typically only have 2 cooks running their lines so its more of an issue of the preoduct not beeing cooked on time with all the people eating up all the product you really have to stay ahead to cook for a buffet crowd so they just have some bad empployees that cant keeep up

Anonymous said...

Hi, i was recently in the Old Country Buffet in Levittown and im actually a regular there. I have to disagree with you about everything you said. This place is one of the cleanest restaurants i ever been to. the food is delicious and very high quality, you can tell everything is fresh. When i am there the pans are always filled with food and when something is only half or a quarter filled a new pan is brought right out. i also think the management team is great especially the new manager Michael, he is a doll, he comes to my table all the time asks how everything is and is always on the go doing something to make the restaurant great. He even knows me by name now haha. I was there on a saturday night the other day and he told me that on the weekends the restaurant does an average of 2000 people a day!! Now im no genius but 2000 people is a lot of people and a lot of food to be served, still the restaurant very clean and all food filled. soo i totally disagree with you and maybe you should give this Old Country Buffet another try because i think it is one of the best.

Robert A said...

You are certainly welcome to your opinion. I too am a regular there - despite its shortcomings because this is the only chain buffet restaurant in Nassau. I have been there for dinner on weekdays and weekends and I have been there for lunch.

Look on the floors. They are filthy. There is no effort to clean the spills and mess that is made throughout the day. I know many who will not come back here after their first visit because of the cleanliness of the floors - which gives them the impression of the overall cleanliness of this restaurant. I do not accept the excuse that 2000 people have gone through - this is no different at other OCB's and chain buffets and they manage to keep the place looking clean. The tables are wiped down, the buffet servers are kept clean, but when people look at what they are walking on and sitting over, well...

Yes, there is a new manager who is working some nights and he does go from table to table greeting his guests and asks if all is well. If only all of the management staff here did the same there would be improvement.

As for trays always being filled - there has been some improvement here, but what the trays are being filled with often duplicates what is already out. One night an entree item was replaced with rolls. There is now an extra charge on weekend nights for fried shrimp and roast beef. Well, they were sure to charge the extra amount but they failed to put out the fried shrimp.

Since this is the "only game in town" it would be great if they improved. Compared with other OCB's and other chain restaurants this one is still down at the bottom.

steve said...

I know this is a last post. But seriously. "Anonymous" - speaking of 2000 people and the restaurants numbers. Can you shill any harder? If you, and the rest of OCB management want to make a defensive post look believeable, you must give yourself a slight insult before mentioning generalities, rather than specific numbers which no manager would speak of with a customer.

For example, i might have believed you were a true OCB customer if you actually recognized that a negative. "Yes, the floors are dirty during busy shifts, but have you seen the place on saturday nights? its busy as hell and whens the last time you didnt see an american with an overgrown buffet plate drop something?"

But your shill is so tacky. And Robert, i stumbled upon your blog for the first time today and have read the whole contents in like 5 hours. You are my new addiction. Your relatively objective writing style and total candor (especially when stating and re-stating that you have only heard of a place rather than dined there) is refreshing and fucking brillant.

ps. lancaster has the best chicken bot pie ever. there is something amazing about the amish and their ridiculously satisfying food. you have a new daily reader.

Anonymous said...

I think you should stay home and cook for yourself. We really enjoy the Old Country Buffet in Levittown. The biggest problem are some of the customers not the restaurant. If you don't like going there, for goodness sakes stop eating there on an overcrowded Sunday night. Maybe you should try the Sunday Breakfast.

Robert A said...

Each to his own. I have been to a lot of buffets and this one needs a lot of improvement. On Long Island the only other buffets to be found are the Asian or specialty cuisine restaurants. If you ever have a chance to try one of the other chain buffets - even other Old Country Buffets - you will see the difference!

And I have not just been there on a Sunday night - I have been there every night of the week and lunch on various days of the week. There is never really very much difference.

And sometimes even a not so good buffet is better than no buffet at all.

Anonymous said...


It's me again, the post from Whitehall.

I've been working for the Buffet I'm at for some time now.
I've noticed, the managers seem to have inner conflict no matter how it appears. Theres one top dog at every store, and what he says goes and the others will be afraid for their jobs unless they have dirt on him. It seems to be how it works. It is very hard to make change in a place where your afraid for your job and the people don't want to improve because it means extra work. Also, with the chapter 11 filing, which is purely to make more money on their part and get out of contracts that cost too much( loopholes) we're seeing stores that do lesser business be closed with all losing their jobs. Our store is safe (we're told) because of how much business we do, and there have been changes in middle management positions so far... OCB is in a changing period now, with 51 stores closing so far including people I knew in other stores.

There's nothing we can do but see what happens.

Robert A said...

It is a tragedy that any of the stores will close and that anyone will lose their job. It is odd that this company acquires another buffet chain (that is superior) and in a year declares bankruptcy. Perhaps OCB should have put its efforts in improving its own chain without the added expense of another.

Anonymous said...

I went this OCB this past Tuesday evening. We were there at dinner time - not late. The reason that I decided to go on this night was to have their Tuesday night featured dish which is a sausage and pasta entree. (One of their better offerings) There was none. Not even a place where it would have been. And no other entree to replace it. The restaurant was far from crowded. For a mid-week evening, business was slow. So where was the feature. It was prominently displayed on two large posters - but that was all it was. It certainly was not being served.

Want to be disappointed? That will be what you will get if you come to Levittown, NY OCB.

Anonymous said...

I took my family to the OCB in York PA. on 2/23/09, the food was adequate as usual except tonight was "meat lover's" night and I had to wait for steak to be served. However, my real problem is the clientele at OCB. I realize that a buffet is usually going to draw in big eaters looking for a bargain, nothing wrong with that, except on one occasion, there was a woman with a recently amputated leg in a wheelchair, again nothing wrong with that. The problem was you could see fluid and infection or whatever seeping through the bandage. Call me a snob, but if I was the manager, I would have asked her to fix the bandage or leave. A restaurant, especially a buffet is no place for an open wound! That was last year, tonight, there was a huge man at least 6'6 300lbs. AGAIN NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT! He was wearing jeans and suspenders, and his shirt was too small to cover his huge gut! There was literally 6 inches of "spare tire" hanging exposed between his pants and shirt, And at the level of the buffet no less! It literally touched the bar while he was filling his plate! Come on, now that is filthy, at least my family and I thought so. Thankfully, this man came in towards the end of our meal so we were pretty much finished eating. I thought of bringing it to the manager's attention, but decided not too as I will never go there again. Oh, and on the way out, I witnessed a woman slap her son in the back of the head and tell him to shut up. I had to find out if anyone else is repulsed by things like this. I will never go back. It's a shame too because the food is generally good. I just can't stand being around a bunch of ignorant pigs at feeding time