Friday, February 08, 2008


I have already given you my two top buffet restaurants for 2007. I thought that you would find it interesting to see what the restaurant industry picks are. Restaurants and Institutions Magazine and website is the restaurant industries trade resource reporting on industry news, trends, and consumer opinions. In September 2007, based on extensive consumer survery, Restaurants and Institutions rated the buffet chains.

The top three chains for 2007 are -
Number 1 - Soup Plantation/Sweet Tomatoes
Number 2 - Golden Corral
Number 3 - Ryan's.

Restaurants and Institutions went into some detail on their findings. Soup Plantations appeals to consumers age 26 and under. Men rated the food quality higher than women. The ratings given by both men and women for food quality were the top in the category for all buffets. Golden Corral appeals to all age groups, but it is the choice of mature consumers' patronage. Menu variety gets a strong rating from men and also families with older children. Younger diners are more pleased with the restaurant's atmosphere than older diners. Ryan's received its highest scores from customers aged 26 and younger in the areas of intention to return, menu variety, and food quality. Families with young children rated Ryan's above average in value.

I have reported on all three chains and I must say that I do agree that all three are the top three - though I would have changed the order and rated Golden Corral as number, Ryan's as number two, and Soup Plantations number three - but as I am over 26 perhaps that is why I prefer Golden Corral to Soup Plantations.

Soup Plantations is an excellent buffet restaurant and you can read my review of it in my article on September 7, 2007. It is a soup and salad based buffet with that addition of pizza and pasta on the buffet servers. This was a great place for lunch and if you like salad and soup, it is great for dinner as well. It differs from the other two chains that it surpassed is that it offers no meat entrees nor does it offer a traditional meal menu. It is also the smaller chain of the three with only one hundred locations with no restaurant further north than North Carolina, but the restaurant does spread across the country to California where it originated. Everything was fresh, the restaurant was extremely accommodating, and the dining experience was memorable to the point that I look forward to returning when I make that long trip south some time in the hopefully near future.

Golden Corral has risen in my opinion since the take over of Ryan's by Buffets, Inc. and its transformation by its new owners to be more and more an Old Country Buffet clone. A few years back I would have picked Ryan's over Golden Corral, but not any longer. Golden Corral is a meat and potatoes buffet with a large variety of menu items. There is a charbroil steak grill with excellent steaks, but the steak is not the central focus. There are many other barbecue and dinner entrees featured.

Ryan's as I say was a one time favorite and I still enjoy it, though it is hard to ignor the changes that have taken place for the worse since the take over. The steak grill is the central focus at Ryan's with several meats being grilled alongside. There used to be more variety at Ryan's.

If we look toward a trend of healthier eating there is no wonder that Soup Plantations has been selected as number one. It is by far the menu with the healthiest of choices in the greatest variety. It may have been the location that I visited in North Carolina but it was jam-packed at lunch time, mid-week. The restaurant was full with workers and executives on their lunch hour, mothers with children, and shoppers. I have not seen other buffets this busy at lunchtime on a weekday (or weekend, for that matter).

So as a consumer who may or not have been included in the research study done by Restaurants and Institutions, does your opinion agree with their findings?

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