Friday, July 25, 2008

Breaking News - OCB Wants to Close 127 Ryans

This news came to light this week through Reuters News Agency and Forbes. Our source of this information is those two news agencies and I credit them for the facts presented. A Fortress Investment Group affiliate has offered to take over 127 restaurants from Buffets, Inc., the owners of Old Country Buffets and the Ryans chain. As we have reported earlier this year, Buffets, Inc. is in bankruptcy proceedings.

It is Buffets, Inc. intention to close these 127 restaurants at the end of August 2008. This would put about 7,500 full and part-time employees out of work. From the reports, Buffets, Inc. is resisting the offer and would rather see these restaurants close. They see these restaurants, which represent half of the Ryan's restaurant chain as unproductive and poorly performing. Fortress has stated that should the courts allow Buffet. Inc to proceed and close these 127 Ryan's Restaurants it would only be the beginning to their closing all of the restaurants in the chain.

Fortress has filed with the court this past Monday to take over these 127 restaurants. Fortress is the "main leaseholder" of these restaurants. Fortress said that it would rather take over the restaurants than have Buffets, Inc. shut them permanently down. Forbes believes that these 127 buffets generate over $40 million dollars in cash flow after rent expenses, making these locations the "STRONGEST" of the Ryan's locations.

Fortress originally bid on the Ryans Buffet chain in 2006 when it was outbid by Buffets, Inc. who paid $876 million including debt for the entire chain. The 127 restaurants slotted to be closed represents one fifth of the entire 569 buffet restaurants run by Buffets, Inc. across the United States.

Earlier this month Buffets, Inc. filed with the US Bankruptcy Court in Delaware to reject the lease and close the restaurants by the end of this coming August. The Court will hear the argument on that motion next week.

Fortress would keep the restaurants open and operating. Buffets, Inc. would not comment on the Fortress filing, nor would Fortress reveal the amount offered, however, Fortress has said that they are "Willing to be flexible".


My Commentary -

I certainly hope that the US Bankruptcy Court grants the Fortress filing and allows them to take over these 127 Ryans Buffet Restaurants (and hopefully, the remainder of the chain in the future). Buffets, Inc. has done nothing but ruin what was the best of the buffet restraurant chains since their take over. They have gone out of their way to press the worst of the Old Country Buffet components into what was a superior restaurant.

If you have read my site over time you know my feelings about Ryans. Even with the take over I rank Ryans now number two, with Golden Corral now at number one and Old Country Buffet still at the bottom at number three. I knew when the take over took place that it would mean disaster for Ryans and that certainly now has come to be. Perhaps had Fortress won the original bid these restaurants would have flourished.

Buffets, Inc. blames it reason for bankruptcy on "core customers (who) cut discretionary spending". Really? Perhaps they should have been paying more attention to the management of their locations, their employees - down to the floor workers in the restaurants, and what their restaurants had to offer - ACROSS the chains. Yes, less people are dining out, but still restaurants are doing business. Many older people eat at the chain buffets daily for either lunch or dinner, finding it a more economical and social way of dining than eating at home - even with the economy in the dumps as it is. People are still going to the chain buffets. As the flashier restaurants get more and more expensive, lesser priced buffets will see an increase in patronage.

This latest news is a great tragedy. To think that Buffets, Inc. would rather see 127 restaurants close and 7,500 people be put out of work rather than allow this other company to come in, take over these restaurants (high producing restaurants) allowing them to stay open and the employees to remain working is incredible! But why should I be surprised - it is Buffets, Inc. that we are talking about!

There is nothing for us to do but wait and see what the U.S. Bankruptcy Court decides next week. Let's all hope they see reason and allow these people to keep their jobs and for these restaurants to remain open under what has got to be a better parent corporation.


I had posted this as a comment but since many do not go to the comments section -

The Washington Post reports on July 30, 2008 that a judge STOPPED Buffets, Inc. from closing the Ryan's restaurants. The judge urged Buffets, Inc. to get together with Fortress and allow them to step in to take over the operation of those buffets.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I first wrote about The Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet in November 2007 (See November 9, 2007). I had recently dined at their buffet and found some things good and some things lacking. October/November in this tourist oriented area are "off=season" and while this restaurant's primary audience are locals - especially those that come to the supermarket that is attached to this restaurant.

I have now returned in the summer - on-season. I again came mid-week at dinner time. I will not repeat the physical structure of the restaurant - that has not changed. But some things have changed - for the better and that will be the focus of this re-review.

One thing, first to note, is that the prices have increased. Dinner now costs one dollar more per adult. This is a fact of many buffet restaurants now and a one dollar increase is low compared to some of the price increases that I have seen recently.

One of the things that I commented negatively on in my first article was a poor first impression of the wait staff. I am happy to say that I had the complete and good opposite experience on this second visit. The staff were friendly and there immediately when you needed them. The young lady who took our drink order and was assigned to our table was always there to take away our dirty plates and bring soft drink refills - even before we asked for them. When she first came to our tables it was just moments after we were seated and approached us with enthusiasm. Excellent!

Our first experience found much of the food bland - and that was not fully the case this time. There were two good soups on this night - one a vegetable beef and the other tomato bisque. My wife tried the vegetable and I tried the tomato. The vegetable was good. The tomato was very good and different. It was nicely seasoned, the tomato had a proper tomato "twang" and it was thick and rich.

On the hot buffet server there was baked country smoked sausage, chicken pot pie (PA Dutch style - read last week's article for an explanation), baked barbecue seasoned chicken, fried shrimp, ham balls (meat balls made from chopped ham and served with a pineapple sauce on top), turkey, pork with sauerkraut, meat loaf, fried fish fillets, pot roast with vegetables, mashed red skin potatoes, small potatoes, stewed tomatoes, mixed vegetables, macaroni and cheese, corn, beef gravy, and chicken gravy. Food was properly hot and the trays were better stirred and tended than at our first meal here in November.

Taste was far better than at our first meal here. Everything was good (with one exception - the meat loaf - it was meatloaf covered in a thick tomato sauce and the taste was not to my liking - not to say that there was anything wrong with it but I did not care for it)). The pork and sauerkraut is still missing the vinegar taste, but it was nicer than some that have too strong a vinegar taste. The smoked sausages were cooked well done and were very tasty. The chicken pot pie was very good. The hams balls were good. The turkey is served chopped up to small pieces, as is common at some restaurants in this area, and was good. The mashed potatoes were tasty. The little potatoes were good. The mixed vegetables were standard - but fine. The macaroni and cheese was very good (I should not be eating that but I love it and a small spoon scoop to taste should not kill me - I hope). We did not try everything as we had a large lunch, but everything that we did try was good - with the one noted exception.

The dessert server had a really extensive selection of puddings and local mixed desserts. There was also a nice selection of pies. There were no cakes. There was also a hot blueberry cobbler.

Every buffet dinner includes a "dip" of one of the 32 flavors of ice cream made right here at the Oregon Dairy which is located on the property behind the restaurant and supermarket. This is something that you need to leave room for. Outside the restaurant there is an ice cream stand and many people come there for this great ice cream fresh from the dairy. The selections of ice cream include some unusual flavors along with the standards. There was cotton candy ice cream, milky way ice cream, blueberry swirl, and many others. The one "dip" was more like three scoops and more ice cream than I could eat after this meal. After dinner we walked around the outside to see the ice cream stand and it sits at the edge of a large playground for kids with a petting zoo, and across the drive way there is a deer pen with a man=made lake, and a small covered bridge
that crossed over to a field of cows from the dairy.
This is something that we could not see on the dark late Fall/winer night when we had been here the first time.

So - second time around summary is
Service - Excellent
Food - Very good
Value - Very good

For a small buffet it is fine. Are there better buffets in this area to choose to go to? Yes. As good a value as this? Some yes and some no.

I do recommend that you give this buffet a try. It is out of the main tourist area, but is actually just on the edge without going to far away. (Some like Shady Maple and Yoders are way out of the main tourist area.)

There is a breakfast buffet and a lunch buffet. There are children's prices. There is a discount card that you can get at their website (which is the same as the supermarket card).

The address for Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet is 2900 Oregon Pike (Route 272) in Lititz, PA 17543. The phone number is (717) 661-6804. There is a website and that is listed on this page at the side of the articles.

Friday, July 11, 2008


A year ago and a year before that I ate in a buffet restaurant in South central Pennsylvania near the village of Intercourse (YES, it is a real village and that is the real name) in Lancaster County. The restaurant at THOSE times had problems and each of those visits resulted in articles with poor reviews. In the past year this site has received several comments stating that this buffet was good and I was emailed by the restaurant's manager saying that significant changes and improvements had been made. I responded to the comment and to the manager that I would return and try it again.

RIGHT UP FRONT - I will state that YES! There has been great improvement and the buffet is now good.

I will write this review at this point as if this was the first time that I have eaten here - as I would with any new buffet that I visit. We will leave the past to the past and start with the Harvest View Family Restaurant fresh.

My visit took place mid-week at dinner time. This is a large restaurant on two levels and the upper level - with a fabulous view of farm land is the room with the buffet servers. The evening we came the lower level was closed off - understandably, because while there were several tables occupied there was no need for the two rooms to be open. As you enter the restaurant there are paper signs pointing you to the dining room and that you should seat yourself. As we entered the upper level dining room we were very pleasantly greeted and told to take any table we wished. We did and we were asked for our soft drink order and told to help ourselves at the buffet. At one time this restaurant offered menu service in addition to the buffet. No menus were offfered and it is uncertain that this is still an option. With the plentiful and reasonable buffet this is not necessary.

Prices are reasonable. The adult buffet is $11.95 Monday to Thursday and $12.95 on Saturday and Sunday. Unlike other local buffets in this area, this buffet is open on Sunday. The Friday night dinner is a special Seafood dinner and costs $14.95. Children are haf price from age 5 to 12 at all meals and under 5 are free. Soft drinks were $1.49 with refills. There is a lunch buffet from 11 am to 4 pm and a breakfast buffet daily as well. Lunch is $8.95 Monday to Friday and $10.95 Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant is open until 8:00 pm - just like all of the other buffets in this area. There are coupons in the local tourist newspapers found all over the area plus the same $2 off per dinner coupon to be found on the restaurant's website, which makes the prices even better. You cannot beat this meal for $10.

There are three buffet servers. A soup and salad server, a hot server, and a dessert server. At the side is an ice cream freezer case where the serving staff scoop hard ice cream for you and there is a bay marie with pies.

There was one soup - on this night it was Potato Soup. I am sure it was fine, but I passed on the soup as it is not one that I prefer and went directly to the salad bar offerings. There was, as my wife put it, expensive lettuce - a variety better than the standard iceberg. There were a number of salad toppings and dressings. There were also several prepared salads - some made with recipes local to this Pennsylvania Dutch area.

The offerings on the buffet are now based in Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. There were several local dishes and there were also "regular" entrees that were made with a PA Dutch slant. There was a good assortment and most should be happy with what they have to select from. Entrees on this night included Seasoned Steak (which seems to be featured most nights). This was a flank-style steak cooked with a thickened seasoned sauce. It was different and it was tasty. There were sausages and onions. These were very good and were sausages split lengthwise and grilled. The sausages were topped with ring slices of cooked onions. These were country sausages and were seasoned in a German style with a bit of red pepper added for spice. There was pork and sauerkraut, a local dish of pieces of pork cooked in a vinegar-based sauerkraut. There was Chicken Pot Pie, which in this area is called Chicken Bot Bie and not like you will find in other regions of the US. In Pennsylvania this is a dish of chicken with noodle dumplings in a thicken sauce with carrots and celery. This is not the chicken in a pie shell that is expected when you hear its name. This is a local Pennsylvania Dutch favorite and this was one of the better that I have had. It was thick and rich with fresh,big noodle dumplings and pieces of chicken.

The more "standard" entrees included baked chicken, which was good, fried chicken with a thick, crispy fried coating that was excellent (the chicken had great crunch and no grease, as some fried chickens will have - this chicken enticed me as soon as I saw it and the taste and crunch was as good as anticipated), and meatloaf with a tomato sauce topping which I have been told is a local Amish lady's recipe and it was good. There was also pulled pork barbecue which was tasty but a bit dry.

Of course, there were vegetables and side dishes. These included cooked carrots, peas, green beans, kernel corn, creamed corn, stewed tomatoes, cabbage, mashed potatoes that were guaranteed freshly made because there were nice lumps of potatoes mixed in, and stuffing. There was hot beef gravy out for the mashed potatoes. The vegetables were not buttered or seasoned - and this is a good thing, letting you decide what you want to put on them - or having them with nothing - which always makes my picky wife happy.

As I said, the restaurant had several full tables, but this was a weeknight and there was not a constant flow of people at the buffet servers. The two waitresses who were working would go over to the hot buffet server and give some of the dishes a stir. Others like the pulled pork should have been tended more often. Every so often the chef would come out of the kitchen and check to see what needed to be refilled. Trays would be refilled but it did take a little bit of time - the reason seemed to be that it was being cooked fresh as it was needed and not sitting in a hot tray in the kitchen just to be brought out. On a busier night there is probably more people in the kitchen - there seemed to be just two this night - but for the crowd it was fine.

The dessert server had three layer cakes, several puddings, jello, fresh fruit and some interesting selections including a jello and apple sauce mixture that was very nice and a tapioca pudding with a red fruit added. There were several selections of ice cream. several fruit pies and the locally known, shoo fly pie. The case that the pies are in is refrigerated.

Wait staff were very pleasant and came throughout the meal to make sure that all was well, take away dirty plates - each plate was removed as you finished it and no plates stacked up on the table, and to refill soft drinks. They were very attentive and even helped small children at the dessert server to fill their plates - something that I have not seen elsewhere and was great for the kids (whose parents really should have been up there with them).

The room could have been a little cooler on this hot evening. The air conditioning was one home type wall unit at the side. It was on and worked hard to cool the room. It may be that when the both dining rooms are open the central air conditioning units are brought on.


I will be returning to enjoy it again. The view is wonderful and if you can sit near a window do so. I have been waiting for a long time for this restaurant to come up to par and it has.

The Harvest View Family Restaurant and Buffet is located next to the Harvest View Motel at 3370 Harvest Drive, Gordonville, Pa 17529. Their phone number is 717-768-7253. There is a website and the link is at the side of this page.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Dienners Country Restaurant. East Ronks, Pennsylvania

Dienner's Country Restaurant, located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the town of East Ronks was recently mentioned (positively) by one of our readers in a comment left on this site. I have had lunch at Dienner's several times, but never had the buffet there. The food is excellent - so why have I not indulged in the buffet?

Dienner's is a small, family-run restaurant. In fact, it is the same family as the family that owns and operates the Family Cupboard restaurant - their name is also Dinner. The restaurant occupies what once was a bakery. It was the bakery that baked the best Shoo Fly Pie in Pennsylvania. The bakery moved out to much smaller quarters and the space was unoccupied until Dienner's Country Restaurant opened a number of years ago.

The reason that I have not had the dinner buffet at Dienners is because the restaurant closes very early in the evening. The restaurant closes at six o'clock every night of the six nights that they are open. The restaurant, like most in this area, is closed on Sunday. To have dinner there you need to start at about 4:30 pm and with the lines that I have seen there, you probably need to arrive about 3:45 to get in at 4:30. All of this is too early for me to plan dinner around - especially when I am on "vacation". But this does not stop many, many people. As I say, there is often a line to get in - both at lunch and at dinner. They serve a breakfast buffet as well starting at 7 am, Monday to Friday, and that likely has a line as well.

With early hours, why is Dienner's so popular? The cooking and the prices.

The lunch buffet served is from 11am to 3pm is $7.89, Monday through Saturday. The dinner buffet starts at 3 pm until closing at 6:00 pm and that is only $8.99 Monday to Thursday and just $10.25 on Friday and Saturday. Buffet prices do not include beverages and soft drinks with free refills are just $1.25. Children's buffet at lunch is 60 cents per year of age from age 2 to 11 and the same for dinner on Monday to Thursday. Friday and Saturday children's buffet dinner is 75 cents per yer of age.

The cooking is done by Amish and Mennonite cooks from recipes that are very much like, if not the same as those used at Family Cupboard, and looking at the buffet selections, I have seen many of the same items. I have ordered some items that were exactly the same as the item is at Family Cupboard - and since this is all in the same family, that is perfectly fine. This is Pennsylvania Dutch cooking at its finest.

This restaurant attracts locals as well as tourists. The restaurant is small inside - about the size of two store fronts. There are tables and booths and three small buffet servers is off to the middle somewhat centered between two small dining rooms that blend together.

Dishes that may be featured on the buffet include rotisserie chicken, fried chicken, meat loaf, ham loaf, chicken pot pie (PA Dutch style), and pork and sauerkraut - among other selections that may or may not be served on the night that you come. Of course, there is going to be real mashed potatoes, corn, and other vegetables. There is dessert too.

Dienner's is a family-friendly restaurant. The servers have always been nice - and usually local Mennonite or Amish women. It is very clean and pleasantly decorated to fit the locale.

Dienner's is a great place - if only it closed the two hours later that the other buffet restaurants in Lancaster close, it would be a regular stop for me. If you like to dine early or if you are looking for a buffet for lunch do go to Dienner's Family Restaurant. Arrive early to leave time for the wait to get in.

Dienner's Family Restaurant is located at 2855 Lincoln Highway East in East Ronks, Pennsylvania. There phone number is 717-687-9571. There is a website and that is listed at the side of this page.

Happy Glorious FOURTH!

Since writing this article I went back to Dienners. The food is excellent. The value is spectacular. The service is wonderful. Even better is that they are now staying open until 8:00 pm on FRIDAY nights. The Friday dinner buffet includes fried cod and fried shrimp, along with the rest of their plentiful offerings. The Friday night hours may only be for the summer. As I have said, this is a VERY popular restaurant. We waited 30 minutes for a table at lunch time on a Saturday (it happened to be July 5 but these are the crowds that this restaurant always gets).

Go to Dienners!