Friday, May 28, 2010

Dedicated To Buffet Employees

I decided to write this article after reading some of what was said by an employee at OCB who commented on the article that I wrote two weeks ago. Aside from the reaction to my criticism of the restaurant that he/she works at, there was a lot that he/she said about being abused and mistreated by customers who come to the restaurant. This is something that I have seen for myself - at a number of buffets. And it is just not right to do.

Some people who go to buffet restaurants feel that the table staff are nothing but, what are referred to in the restaurant business, bus boys. They do not regard these employees on the same level as waiters or waitresses in menu restaurants. Since these people do not take your order and carry out your meal from the kitchen, course by course, these people are not given the same regard. Which is wrong. What many do not realize is that these table staff do a lot more than a waiter or waitress in just the prompt recognition that your plates need clearing and, in some buffets, your drinks need refilling. They are actually working a lot harder than some waiters or waitresses. Now, I don't want to be hearing from waitresses and waiters, who are going to say, hey, we do a hard job too. Yes, you do, but so do the buffet table staff and the same respect that is afforded to waiters and waitresses - and the same level of tips - should be afforded to the buffet table staff.

Tips - many people feel that there is no need to tip anyone at a buffet - after all you have to go and fill your own plates and get your own food. Well, right from the beginning of this site we said that a tip should always be left at a buffet and it should be left in an amount equivalent to what you would have left the waiter or waitress in a menu restaurant. Now, I am one who believes that if the staff does not do a good job the tip should be lowered accordingly. It should not be an expectation that a certain amount based upon the cost of the meal should be given. But when the service is average to good a proper tip should reflect that.

Often at a buffet the fault of the management or a slow kitchen staff is taken out on the employees working around the buffet servers. It is not their fault that they do not have something to put out if that item is not coming out of the kitchen. They can only bring what is available to them to bring. It is their job to report to the kitchen what is needed and also to the manager if the food is not coming out as it should, but beyond that they do not control what comes out and when. As they are right there it is easy to feel that they are the ones to complain to - but the one that you should be seeking out and complaining to is the manager. It is only the manager that is actually going to do something about it. A good manager will respond immediately and direct the staff responsible to not repeat what went wrong. Hopefully, after several warnings, there will be a change for the better - or the manager will make changes in employees.

So when you go to a buffet, make sure you smile and be pleasant to all of the staff. Say hello to the person who comes to your table. Greet the workers at the buffet servers. Be polite to the carver at the carving station. We always are. We go out of our way to be polite and nice to the employees at the buffets and expect the same in return - which we often get. And when your meal is done, leave a tip. Appreciate the people working at the restaurant and do not treat them as if they are servants (who should be treated with respect as well - for those who have servants). These are hardworking people who are not earning nearly enough for the work that they do.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Big Ed's BBQ, Old Bridge, New Jersey

A few weeks ago we found a barbecue restaurant in New York City that has an "all you can eat" feature. One of our readers has shared with us another barbecue restaurant in New Jersey that also offers all you can eat barbecue.

The restaurant is Big Ed's BBQ and it is located in Old Bridge, New Jersey. Understand that this is not a buffet restaurant, but a menu service restaurant. They do have All You Can Eat Barbecue Ribs every day at lunch. They also have a special Fall feature of All You Can Eat Barbecue Ribs every night during the months of October and November.

I have not eaten at this restaurant - yet. But one of our readers has and described Big Ed's in glowing terms along with the great barbecue he has eaten there. Big Ed's gets glowing reviews from such publications as the New York Times all the way to Zaggets. They claim to be the "best ribs in New Jersey".

Lunch at Big Ed's features All you can eat ribs - listed as BBQ, Honey BBQ, Cajun Dry Rub or Hot & Spicy and this comes with one side dish and a salad for just $9.99. I am told that you have your choice of baby backs, St. Louis, or Spare. That is pretty good - even if it is lunch. This is served from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm. The food is served to you - you do not go up and get it yourself. When you want more you have to ask for it and it will be brought to you at your table.

The big event of the year is an annual occurrence that they call "Ribtoberfest" and is from October 1 to November 30. This is an all you can eat dinner that includes a side dish and salad and either BBQ Baby Backs or Spare Ribs. It includes soda and everything is refilled as you ask for it - again, served to you at your table. There is no sharing, of course. I do not know a price for this meal. If you are going and concerned about price I would call first.

The food really does sound good. The sign of good barbecue ribs - to me at least - is that the meat just fall off the rib bones - no gnawing, no scraping. Just melt in your mouth fall off the bone. Listen to what our reader told me "I eat the baby backs with a knife and fork, and when I'm done, the bones are ready for a museum display. They're that clean." Yes, that is exactly how they should be.

The restaurant has a menu that has a lot of other types of barbecue and also chicken, seafood, and beef. There are combination platters along with entrees. There is also a kid's menu. But the reason that we are writing about this here is their ALL YOU CAN EAT RIBS.

The photos of the restaurant show this to be a fun and typical BBQ place for the whole family with a country theme. The building is made to look like a farm/red barn with lots of country cut outs, a tractor, and such outside. There are outdoor tables in addition to the dining room.

Can't wait to try it!

As this is not a regular buffet or AYCE restaurant I am not including the link to their website on the side list of buffets but I am putting it right here - BIG ED'S BBQ . Check the website for money-off coupons.

Big Ed's BBQ is located at 305 Route 34, Old Bridge, New Jersey. The phone number is (732) 583-2626.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Not So Hot New Deal at Old Country Buffet

We had not been to the local OCB in a few weeks and when we went in there were signs at the entrance - one about lunch and one about dinner. These large bold signs said "New Price $10.99 for Dinner" and then at the bottom in much smaller writing it said "Beverage Bar NOT included". There was a similar sign for lunch at $7.99. As we went in and a long the line we came to another sign - order the "unlimited beverage bar - unlimited choices". There was NO price on that sign. Hmm. I was a bit annoyed. The lower price sounded good as the price here had come close to $13 on weeknights and over $13 on Friday and weekend nights. I immediately thought of the prices and the ads at Golden Corral - but those ads are for dinner under $10 so this was not quite as good. Of course, Golden Corral and Ryans have always priced the beverages separate from the meal and what set Old Country Buffet off was the inclusion of the beverages. Of course, my experience at OCB has been some nights all of the soda flavors are working on the machine, some nights the ice tea container has tea, and some nights there is no ice in the machine the entire night. So having the drinks included tended to be a bit better psychologically when you were not getting the drink you went up to get.

We were still on the line and real curious as to how this would work. How could they not charge everyone for the beverages automatically? Who was going to "police" this in the dining room? Certainly not the table cleaners who barely are around to take the dirty plates off the table. And still no sign with the price for the drinks.
We got up to the cashier and started looking for the price for the drinks. On the side wall in small print there it was - "Beverage Bar - $1.69". So, the illusion of a wonderful deal for dinner at $10.99 plus the $1.69 for the beverage brought the new price within ten cents of the old price. Weekends would be a savings of about 70 cents. But still how was this going to work?

We paid and instead of the familiar strip of color paper with the number of guests written on in crayon to put on your table to show that you both paid and the table is occupied we got a very large, full color printed half page stapled to our receipt that showed - still written in crayon - 2 dinners 2 beverages. And in two languages.
An interesting idea, but still who " is minding the mint" so to speak - who is watching that I paid and I am not taking beverages without paying. As we discovered, NO ONE.

This was something that was tried at OCB and failed with the just order the salad bar idea. No one was watching. We observed many order the salad bar and help themselves to the whole meal. I have even seen people order the take out container at the lower price for take out and then sit down at a table - with the container - and eat dinner and return back to the buffet servers for more - in the container! No, at least in this location, no one is minding the store.

Then, again, I have written about the Levittown, NY OCB before as the "worst OCB in the country" and despite a change in mangers who were actually pretty good for a while and then disappeared and now new managers who are as bad as the usual management that they get at this location this remains the "Worse OCB in the country". A bunch went on that night in addition to this new "deal". Here the meat carver (there is no grill here) is located at the end of a buffet server and from the start people would line up on both sides of the server to go up to the carver which correctly made for shorter lines. On this night the woman who was carving was only serving one side - and ignoring the other side. Since she did not speak or understand English the comments to her went acknowledged. When you got to the side she was serving the portions of meat that she was carving were hardly wait the wait. The pieces of steak were no larger than two inches square. In addition, no one explains to the people who refill the buffet trays with food that the Board of Health requires that you take the old food in the tray and transfer it to the top of the new tray of food - so that the bottom of the tray does not always remain with food that is not taken and increasingly getting older with each refill. NO here they just dump the new on top of the old.

Now, for those of you who are going to say - and I hear from many of you - why are you dumping on this particular restaurant? Well, I am not the only one who encounters what goes on here and I get more email and comments from readers who agree with everything I say about this particular OCB. And with this site - I am the one to speak out. And for those who say why do you go back there. It is the only game for many many miles and you can't eat Chinese Buffet all of the time - so I go back and keep hoping. Some nights I am pleasantly surprised and then there are nights like this one.

So don't be surprised if you go now to OCB and see the NEW LOW PRICE - but you know now that it really is not "low" at all!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Ole Times Country Buffet - Georgia and Florida

I am often asked about buffets in areas that I have not gotten to or cannot get to. I am always looking for buffets located all over the world to share with you. I have happened across a chain that has locations all over Georgia and two in Florida called Ole Times Country Buffet.

Now, as always, when I have not been there I tell you right up front - so here it is - I have not been to any of the locations of Ole Times Country Buffet. Hopefully some of you who have will comment on this article and share with all of us how it is. If a photo means anything these buffets look good.

Ole Times Country Buffet (I just want to write Old Times Country Buffet and know that OCB must hate the name of this chain because it brings OCB to mind = which is not necessarily a good thing) has restaurants in Valdosta, Macon, Brunswick, Albany, Dublin, Tifton and Warner Robins, Georgia and in Tallahassee and Lake City, Florida. The prices at these buffets seem incredibly good (though they say prices may vary by location due to the economy) - $7.79 for dinner including Top Sirloin Steaks, $6.79 for lunch (no steak), what they call a Thanksgiving Spread on Sundays for $7.79,$8.99 Seafood dinner buffet Friday and Saturday nights, and $1.49 for unlimited soft drinks (Pepsi products - a surprise for Georgia (if you don't know why ask in a comment)). This has most chains beat in price.

So what are you getting for the money? The spread seems considerable and I have seen photos of the buffet setups in of several of the locations. There are long buffet servers accessed from both sides. There are hand cut top sirloin steaks after 5 pm. There is the assortment of country favorites of baked chicken, beef, pork, and chicken - all claimed to be home cooking and "Southern-style". With the five meats that are served on the buffet are seasoned country vegetables that include creamed corn and green beans. They state that the vegetables are "well seasoned" which to most is an attraction - however, to my picky eater wife who likes things plain, this would be a problem. The Sunday Thanksgiving Spread includes Sliced Roast Beef, Sliced Baked Ham, Baked Chicken, Sliced Turkey, and Stuffing with Chicken. I see no mention of fried chicken on any of the menus. There is a dessert bar with "made from scratch banana pudding", fresh baked cobblers, cookies, muffins, and lemon squares. Their baked goods include biscuits and corn muffins. Along with the Pepsi drinks there is the Southern favorite Sweet Tea, lemonade, and fruit punch - and of course, coffee and hot tea. There are salad bars also with a nice assortment of prepared salads and salad fixings for tossed salads. It all looks good and I am getting hungry just writing about it.

The restaurants are opened from 10:30 am to 9:00 pm every day. There is no breakfast so they are opening for an early lunch or a very hearty lunch buffet for breakfast. There is a website and that is linked at the side of this page. Each restaurant location is linked at the side of the main website.

If you have been to Ole Times Country Buffet tell us about it and please say which location. If I am ever near one I will try it!