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!


Anonymous said...

WOW i work at the Levittown Old Country Buffet and i just found this site and am very surprised about what you write. A lot of your post are not true including this one. There are people checking to see if you get a beverage, you just dont know it, why would we let you know how we do it. Also i know all the carvers, they can all understand english, ever think that maybe since your rude to them they dont want to talk to you. try and treat them the way you want to be treated. As far as new food going on top of old food, your wrong about that too, the old food is removed and a new pan goes in with the old food going on top. You seem to be very negative. There are pleanty of customers that come in every day and love our buffet. If your gonna bash my job and say stuff thats not true just dont come anymore we dont need you, and we don't like you.

Robert A said...

I have let the above comment go through to show the attitude that has always been so obvious to customers at the Levittown OCB for many years.

Everything that I report is observed and not just by me. I have been back several times since the new beverage policy and continue to see no one checking that the beverages taken have been paid for - the system is connected with the paper that goes on the table that is supposed to be checked by the person who removes dishes from the table - often they barely get to the table to take the dirty dishes as they pile up much less do they watch who is going up to the beverage counter or keep track of the glasses at the table.

As to putting food in the servers, new food to the bottom. From observation new trays are brought out and poured on top of the old.

As to the carvers - no one is rude to them, no one treats them badly - you just stand on the line to get up to them and then try to get what you want. And few speak English and if they do, perhaps they pretend not to.

Now, the last line here - "we don't like you." I have heard that said from this OCB to customers before - a couple of years back one of our readers was told this exact same line by a manager at this very same OCB - "We don't like people like you and we don't want you here." We printed that customer's comments in one of our articles. Interesting how that is always the defensive response here.

I have been to many OCB's and this is the only one that is like this.

Sad. One would think that the response from the restaurant would be, thanks for the critique we will try to do better- and not
"we don't need you and we don't like you."

I write it like a see it, pull no punches when need be, and overflow with delight when delighted. And that is why my thousands of readers come back to read this site regularly.

Robert A said...

Another comment was sent by the above "employee" at the Levittown OCB. It continued along in the same way as above. I have not posted it due to the amount of profanity that was used in the post - but I will include here the last few words -

"so like i said if your gonna bash us and talk s... we dont need you. dont come back"

Thus again illustrating the level of this particular OCB.

I have to wonder how Buffets, Inc. Corporate Offices would appreciate one of their representatives saying this to any customer.

disgusted customer said...

I go to this OCB and others and also think that this one is poorly run. The person who wrote on behalf of the OCB must be blind to what goes on there. The wait staff is considerably better than the buffet staff, one or two very good, but often clear the table once or twice the entire meal and cannot possibly be checking if one has paid for one's drink. At Ryan's and GC it is easy for them to keep track of drinks as the wait staff brings the drinks and they are not out for self help. In one case since the new policy has been in place, there were no hot cups to use the entire time we were there. As to the buffet, I have also often seen the new food dumped on the old, instead of replacement of tray and then old food on top of the new food. I thought at first that it was one employee, but since then have seen the others do the same. I treat the all of the employees very nicely and I am very polite to them. I say please and thank you, and greet them. If the staff at the buffet, including the carvers speak English, they choose not to let the customers know. On one occasion I(politely) asked for turkey. The employee had to switch serving pieces as she had been carving roast beef. I made a joke to her about how whichever carving pieces she had, someone asked for something different and she has to switch carving pieces, and her reply was "No English". On recent night the woman ahead of me asked to please have a piece of the roast beef from the a specific side of the beef, the other side being rarer. The employee carving could not understand her and went and got a second employee who also could not understand the request, and after some time they figured out what she wanted. Had they spoken English they would have understood. This is not a particularly Spanish speaking area and English speaking employees are needed. I was once at a Ryans with a deaf employee at the dessert bar. She had less problems dealing with the public than the employees at the Levittown OCB buffet bar do. Also the author of this blog is polite. The floor is filthy and when one goes to get a drink one sticks to the tile floor. At other OCB's and other buffets, the tile floor would be mopped, and food and other garbage would be cleaned up from the rest of the floor as soon as possible after it falls noo left for the night. Reading Anonymous's post and later comment I have to wonder about the grammar in the post. When the Levittown OCB opened we were frequent visitors, often multiple times a week. We are now relatively rare visitors, mostly in hope that it has returned to how it used to be, and it is now just the 2 of us. We no longer bring friends or family there as it is too embarrassing. A friend's 5 year old daughter thought the floor too dirty when we went there! As long as they do not want customers there, I suppose they are doing the right thing, and will put themselves out of business. Oh, and $1.69 for soda is wayyyy too much.

Anonymous said...

Well discusted customer im sorry you had a bad experience. It seems that you haven't been there in a while perhaps you should stop in and give us another chance. On the prices, it used to be $13.19 friday- sunday and $12.69 mon-thurs. Now the price is 10.99 without a drink add 1.69 for the drink and you pay 12.68 with a drink. so its actually CHEAPER then what the price used to be. I wish i can make the prices but i dont have any power to do that. On your visit with the floors being dirty, im sure the restaurant was very busy that night but as you can see people drop stuff of the floor every 5 seconds. As far as the last comments. your right i apologize to Rob A and to anyone i offended, maybe i was too mean, iwas very heated because i take pride in my work and dont make a lot of money then have people bashing my work saying that we're not good at all. To Rob A, there are people checking for beverages if you dont order a beverage you get a bright red glass that will let us know you didnt order a beverage and we will clearly see if there is soda in it. This will be my last comment unless anyone has any questions that i can answer. I will try and answer them the best i can. I will leave it at this: Thanks for the critique we will try to do better.

Anonymous said...

Having recently left Buffets Inc. anonymous was right regarding the guest who orders water getting a red glass. The way to control this is the wait staff and management are trained, if a guest is drinking Coke in a red glass then try and get the guerst to pay for the Beverage Station price or take the red glass. This was rolled out by the COO in meeting, the Beverage stations are also going into Ryan's within the next year.

Robert A said...

The red glass idea would work IF it was the server bringing the beverages as is done at Golden Corral or had been done at Ryans. I have seen several not pay for the beverages, get no red glass, and then just go up for beverages with no one noticing. And what stops one from just ditching that red glass and taking the usual clear glass from the many that are at the beverage area - of course the server should but it just won't happen regularly in practice. This had been attempted for a short time with the salad bar only idea - and then many with salad bar tickets were helping themselves to the hot entrees and all of the rest (observed on several visits).

Of course, sharp eyes would see the cooler bags and zip locks being filled under the tables, the lower price take out containers being consumed in the dining room at tables, and the many other abuses that customers attempt and get away with. None of which are right but OCB tends to leave themselves wide open for this type of thing.

theminx said...

Wow. It's Old Country Buffet, where you can stuff your face until you explode. Even if it costs $15 including beverages, it's probably a deal. And if it's not - then why eat there? Is the food even any good?

Robert A said...

To theminx - the point of this article is to show that what is being touted as a new "deal" is not so much of a deal at all. And as this site reports the news along with reviews about buffet restaurants this is something for our readers to know about.

If you read through this site you will discover that eating at buffets is not about "stuff your face until you explode". I recommend that you read our "Rules of the Buffet" articles.

And - yes, the food at Old Country Buffet is fine.


If you want to see a good OCB go to the ones in NJ - Edison or Watchung!

disgusted customer said...

Not to make an ongoing debate about this, but in reference to anonymous's response - I understand that people are gross and make a mess. I do not expect every spill to be immediately cleaned up, but in the space of a half hour or, at minimum an hour, there should be a mopping of the floor around the "beverage bar" when one is sticking to the floor. I have been there twice since the new drink policy went into effect. On one occasion there were no hot drink cups the entire time I was there. So anyone paying and wanting coffee or tea paid for nothing. We have not tried to have iced tea since the change, but in the past find that it often runs out and is not refilled, again paying for something not there. I also notice that chocolate milk, at least on my visits, was no longer available. Again, paying... I am not paying $1.69 for drinks. Water is fine. $1.69 is an entire 2 liter bottle of soda, when it is not on sale, almost two when it is on sale. To pay that for 1 or 2 small, perhaps 5 oz maximum cup is ridiculous. These visits did not involve unusually busy nights in the OCB based on my prior visits. Understand that based on my visits in the early years of this particular OCB, as well as my visits to the chain, it has gone downhill and I am disappointed. I like the idea of OCB and how the chain used to be and how it has been when we have gone to it elsewhere. It has improved since the worst it was, but needs much more. The chain's change of menu choices is unrelated to this particular OCB, but is very disappointing. I am not sure if foods are now this spicy in the rest of the chain or if this is related to just this OCB. I also wonder if the serving of more than one item, such as two kinds of shrimp, one over the other in one serving dish, is something done just at this OCB or at all of them.

Anonymous said...

About soda prices: has anyone noticed that beverage prices have crept up at many national chain restaurants? some Friday's and Cheesecake Factory's charge $2.79 or $2.99 for soft drinks. Plus tax and tip. I'm not kidding. They are trying to make their money this way.

Robert A said...

One of the issues here as "Disgusted Customer" has pointed out is not so much paying for the soda but paying for something that at this particular location is not always provided - no cups for the coffee, ice tea containers empty, no ice available, etc. I don't mind paying for something as long as it is there when I go up to get it.

Unlike Golden Corral where the soda is also charged extra, at Golden Corral the soda is brought to you by a server and that server is making sure there is ice, drinks are available, and there are coffee cups. I have never thought twice about paying extra for the soft drinks at Golden Corral - and in the past at Ryan's - as I knew that there would be soft drinks, ice, and coffee to be received.

Marcia J said...

I live on LI but have never been to this OCB before as I live in Suffolk Cty. While visting some friends in Nassau Cty we decided to go to the one near them in Levittown. What a mistake. Basically what has been said here is what I found. The area around the "Beverage Bar" was awash in liquid and never mopped the entire time we were there. Food was not replaced promptly nor properly. I saw employees pour new food over old, in one case the new food was sent out in a smaller pan than the one that was out so the kitchen intended for this to be done. After paying extra for the "Beverage Bar" there was no iced tea and they ran out of hot drink cups which were not replaced during the time we were there. The plates are horrible colors, extremely unappetizing, instead of neutrals in the one near us. Drinking glasses for cold drinks were much smaller than those at ours and the same as the ones they had at ours before the Beverage Bar was split off in price. I am pretty sure that when my nephew was young he used to have chocolate milk at ours; there was none here, although it may also be missing from ours now. I also had a problem with food bar employees not speaking English, which I have not had at the OCB near us. I don't think I would ever return to this OCB and I am not sure how they stay in business. It is only a county away, but what a world of difference and according to my friends this is how this one always is and it becomes worse each time. Had this been the first PCB I went to I would NEVER go to one again.

Anonymous said...

I live in central NJ and used to love going to different OCBs, especially on the weekends for breakfast. Things started going downhill a few years back when they went bankrupt and started closing the OCBs closest to our house. We still made the trip up to Edison (about 25 miles) every few months, but last year they ruined everything by lowering the price of breakfast to $5.99. Why ruined, you ask? Because not only was the price cut, the entire selection was cut, too!!!! There was no longer the variety that my husband and I looked forward to during breakfast. Meager, slim pickin's, but we still kept going back, out of habit and also the hope that things might return to "normal". Well, we returned this AM, for the first time since April, and it will be our last visit, EVER. After getting used to paying one price for everything (the way a buffet SHOULD be), we were now forced to pay an extra $1.49 each for our coffees. Yeah, the price per meal was lowered to $4.99, but with the stupid "beverage bar" charge, we were paying more than before. That marketing crap doesn't work on THIS girl, so OCB: take your beverage bar and SHOVE IT! I won't be darkening your door again. Good-bye.
P.S. I've walked out of Ryan's when confronted with the extra fee for drinks, but had heard such good things about Golden Corral that I sucked it up and paid for my drink. The food (dinner time) was good, but I HATED having a server hovering over my shoulder waiting to refill my glass and bring me a new plate. We tried breakfast too, and coffee is one thing I love and need to prepare for myself. You can imagine my dismay when the server had to make it for me. I guess I'll be staying out of buffets from now on. It's been a nice 15 years going to the buffet chains, but I'll stick to diners from here on in.

Robert A said...

At least at Golden Corral and Ryans when your server has to bring you your drinks and refills, there are always glasses, ice, coffee cups, etc., UNLIKE OCB where after paying extra for the beverage bar there are no glasses to get beverages, there is no ice left in the dispenser. there are no coffee cups out, and the ice tea urn is empty - and never gets refilled.