Friday, August 07, 2009

I Love CiCi's Pizza Buffet, BUT...

I have written about CiCi's Pizza Buffet many times. I have always recommended it and I still do but I have an ongoing problem with Cici's that I have written about from my first article about the chain a few years back. I know that Cici's corporate is very responsive and they have followed my articles and responded to some in the past. I am hoping that they read this article and maybe make some changes.

My problem - actually two related problems - have to do with the system for table clean up in the restaurant. A cleaning person travels around the restaurant with a cart and picks up dirty dishes from tables and cleans tables when the dinners are finished and leave. In this lies my major problem. This person has no idea if anyone is coming back to the table so any empty table is totally cleared away. I know that my wife and I are not the only ones who will go up together for more food at any buffet that we go to, leaving the table empty. Most buffets have some type of sign or paper saying that the table is occupied. Not Cici's. More than once we have gone up for more pizza only to return to our table to find our cups of soda (half full when we left them) and everything else cleaned away. Once we came back to find people sitting at our table. This has not just happened once but on several visits and at different Cici's.

On this most recent visit my wife had an idea. She wore a sun hat into the buffet and set it down on the table - the idea was that the cleaner would see the hat and then know that we were still occupying that table. I am not going to mention which Cici's we were in but this was one of the most absurd occurences yet. No one had come around to our table for quite some time and the empty dishes were stacking up. We both got up to get more food and the hat was left on the side of the table. We were only gone a few moments when we returned to find - once again - the table was completely cleaned away AND THE HAT WAS GONE. We found the cleaner who said "oh, you are still here." "Were is the hat that was on the table?". we asked. "Oh, its over here by the cash register." We asked why did he clear away the table if the hat was still there showing that we were still there as well. "Huh?", was the reply. Just by coincidence a manager hda come by and asked how everything was going. We told him. His only response was to laugh. (Are you reading this Corporate?) The lesson is quickly leanred just like rats in a Skinner Box, don't get up from the table together and always leave someone behind. Maybe this is fine for others and for those with a lot of people in their family, but it is just the two of us and we like to eat together - not once getting up while the other waits.

So what could Cici's do to fix this? A simple sign that says "occupied" on one side and "open" on the other on each table - a bit of cardboard printed on computer printer would do it. Simple lamination for a few cents would preserve it. Or even more simply, a paper from the cashier that says leave up on table while occupied - just like OCB and so many buffets do. Why is this so hard for Cici's to realize?

My other complaint also has to do with the cleaning cart. The top of the trash bin sits at about face hieght and this cart rolls close to the tables up and down each aisle. As it goes by your nose in in the traah. This is one of the most unappetizing things that any restaurant could do - and it is standard practice at Cici's.

As I state in my title, I love Cici's but the table problem is enough to keep me from going to Cici's. When I dine out I want to relax and I want to be able to pace my meal with my partners. I do not want to be concerned that when we return to our table all will be gone. If this happened once, well, we would chaulk it up to an employee who did not know what he was doing - but this happens 9 out of 10 visits and that is just to much. My wife asked me if it would help if we brought our own sign, but you know, I do not think that would make any difference, because if the system is not changed - and the cleaning staff do not know to be aware if someone is still using the table, nothing is going to work.

So Cici's, I begging you, come up with a system to show a table is occupied. Get over whatever makes you feel that this is not necessary. It is VERY NECESSARY.


SkippyMom said...

Perhaps those plastic number tents they had at places like York Steak House [so they knew where to deliver your steak] but one side could be one color [red for occupied] and the other another [white for unoccupied] and it could be left on each table [along with the hot pepper and cheese shakers] with directions for each customer for use?

We don't have this problem at our local Cici's - but we only go to one. I do think you make a fabulous point tho'.

dave1973 said...

This is why I don't like your Rule #7 about leaving the table together. Too often, I find that servers are too hasty to clean the table for the next customer, even if they know you're going for more food. This nearly happened to me at a buffet inside Horseshoe Casino in Hammond Indiana. I don't know about you, but regardless of buffet, even if there's a slip on the table, that means nothing to the server. Most people who reserve their tables don't bother to turn them over, which is why servers don't bother to check if people are still using that table. So if you wanna make sure your table stays reserved, then 1 person needs to stay at the table. Most people I know will disagree with your Rule #7 about staying until everyone finishes, then go back up to the buffet together. That makes your table vulnerable to being cleaned of everything, and that table becomes available to the next customer(s).

As for the cart being wheeled around at Cici's; I know what you mean. That's my main gripe when tables are being cleaned. It's too bad that they couldn't have a spot where carts stayed in place, until it was time to take it back to the kitchen. My other gripe with my local Cici's is the over dramatization of announcing certain pizzas, shouting "Wlcome to Cici's", and if they see people leave; "Cici you Later"!

Robert A said...

Yes, it has happened to us, too,but just a few times. Rarely when there has been a slip or sign on the table. Usually it is an inexperienced or overzealous bus-person who is paying no attention.

dave1973 said...

Too often for me has been people who've worked for any buffet (Cici's, Old Country Buffet, and especially Golden Corral in Schererville Indiana) for a year or more. So in my case, these servers know better, but are more concerned about making that table available for the next customer(s).
Which is why I will always go against your rule #7, and insist on making 1 person wait at the table, in order to keep it reserved. The slip means nothing to many experienced servers.