Friday, June 03, 2011

I Knew I Would Regret It

Over the years I have been pretty hard on Old Country Buffet but the fact of the matter is that it is not the overall chain of Old Country Buffets that I have a problem with but just one location. Since this location is nearby to me, it is the one that I have visited the most and the one that I have come to call - "the worst Old Country Buffet in the country". It would take one extremely bad to be any worse. I pull no punches and will tell you - as I have told you before - that this is the Levittown, New York Old Country Buffet.

Despite its location I do not go to this Old Country Buffet any longer. We drive about a half hour into the next county to go - regularly, I might add - to the other Old Country Buffet on Long Island which compares favorably to other Old Country Buffets that I have been to outside of New York. I have written about the managers at the two and the differences. Others who have been to the Levittown OCB have left comments and have written to me and have agreed. There is a problem at this location - and despite changes in managers, the problem persists.

I recently had a week where I had been physically ill - not due to eating at any buffet or food poisoning, though I will admit that the thought passed through my mind as I went through this stomach virus. But, it was a stomach virus and nothing more. It came and went but I spent the week not eating much but it got to the point toward the end of the week that I had to start eating regular again and have full meals once more. It was a Friday and we generally go out to dinner on Friday nights - either to a Chinese buffet or OCB. I was not yet up to a Chinese buffet and decided that OCB would be fine.

It was time to head out for dinner and I did not really feel like driving the distance out to the other Old Country Buffet - the good Old Country Buffet. I told this to my wife and I suggested that we give Levittown a try. As soon as I said that to her, I also said, "Somehow I know that I am going to regret this."

We arrived at a little after 7 pm which for this area and OCB on a Friday night is not late (people were still coming in to start eating here at 9 pm). There was no line and we went in and got a table. We went up to the buffet for soup. I passed the salad bar and noticed that the Caesar salad bowl was empty. I brought my soup bowl back to the table and while my wife collected silverware to bring to the table, I went up to the "beverage bar" to get our soft drinks. The "beverage bar" costs $1.99 each now and has for a while. With the introduction of paying for your drinks separately from the meal price they lowered the price of the meal to $10.99, BUT the beverage and the meal now costs more than it did before. Yes, prices are going up all over but this price went up before everyone else's did and before there was any real reason for the jump. This is true now at all OCB's and has nothing really to do with any one location. Back to my tale - so I went to get our beverages. I went up to the ice tea dispenser, put my glass of ice under the spigot and pulled the handle and nothing came out. OK. It happens. I looked around for someone to tell and there was no one. (Let me add one more fact about the Levittown OCB - if the majority of those working speak English, they pretend not to - if they really don't speak English, well there is one of the problems that many encounter at this OCB. So even if you try to tell someone about any problem, you get very little response or resolution.) I took soda instead, but I really do prefer a non-carbonated beverage with my meal and if I am paying $1.99 for it and it is not there, well... I figured that sooner or later it would be refilled.

We finished our soup and went up for salad. Again, I went to the empty bowl of Caesar salad. No one had noticed and there was no one to tell. I got back to the table and said to my wife, "I said I was going to regret coming here, didn't I?" Big deal? More of an annoyance, but an annoyance that is being paid for - and therein lies the rub! I am a strong believer in value - as those of you who read this site regularly know from my reviews of buffets. I have said many times that if you get something of value, it is not a problem paying a little extra for it, but you must get value for the money that is so hard to earn these days.

Finished with our soup, and now finished with our salad plates, the soiled plates were stacking up on our table. I looked around for the person who is supposed to clear the plates away. She was cleaning a table across the room that a group had just left. When she was finished with that I expected that she would start to make the rounds of the tables that were occupied and clear away the stacks of dirty dishes. No, she didn't. She seemed to disappear for a bit and then when she reappeared she was off cleaning another table that was no longer occupied. Now, don't write and tell me that she had to get tables ready for new guests because there were few coming in and there were plenty of clean tables. It was not until we were well into the hot entrees that she came by for the first time and picked up the plates off our table.

I counted the tables that she was responsible for - about twenty five. This really is too many tables for one person in this buffet. There need to be more employees AND that is the main reason why there are so many problems at the Levittown Old Country Buffet.

Looking around at who or the lack of who is doing what - there are too few people working to handle jobs that absolutely require more employees and this goes from the table people to the people working at the buffet servers to the people cooking in the kitchen. There is no one looking after the salad bar. There is one person who comes to the refill trays that are empty on the buffet - and when that person goes to the heating unit that is in the wall between the serving floor and the kitchen what they need is rarely waiting for them to put out. Next to that unit is an intercom and repeatedly you hear the person covering the buffet tables ask for the same item - over and over again. This is not just this one night but on so many other occasions when we would go there semi-regularly - before we decided to go to the next county. On this night a "new" manager came out and started carving as there was no one else to do it. Between carving and during carving she would run over to look at a near empty or empty tray and then dash to the intercom to ask for that item to be brought out. A long while later - still nothing to refill that tray and she was still the one carving. I have to wonder if there is actually anyone paying attention or listening to the other end of that intercom. This one worked hard on this night - and the restaurant was not that busy. But little was accomplished. Another recently new manager was going in and out of the kitchen - most times with empty hands, but every so often he was filling trays. At one point a guest asked for a dessert item that was empty. She was told it would be out as soon as HE went into the kitchen to make it. Business here is not that bad that the managers are doing all of the jobs. There needs to be people hired - and with the unemployment rate there is no reason why there are not more people - and responsible, responsive people working here.

In comparison, the other OCB has none of these problems. For one thing the manager sees something is empty on the buffet and he goes into the kitchen directly and with a booming voice that can be heard in the buffet area tells the kitchen crew exactly what he wants sent out and he wants it immediately - and comes out very quickly after that with several people coming in and out of the kitchen refilling trays. Yes, on some nights I have seen management help where needed. But this is not often needed - and there are weeks that I have been there on more than one night.

Well, the ice tea was never made. The Caesar salad finally came out as we were finishing dinner - about an hour and a half after we arrived to see the empty salad bowl. There were a few points that we went up to take food and were at a loss for what to take as there was little there.

Another typical night at Old Country Buffet in Levittown. I am not sure why but it continues to live up to the name of Worst Old Country Buffet in the Country. To correct that I believe it needs a clean sweep of employees and management. It needs a newly trained staff of employees who actually care about working and have a desire to do a good job and there needs to be a strong manager with equal commitment to the guests. Over the years there had been good employees and there had been some good, but short-time spent managers. Whenever they seem to get a good one that makes some improvements, he/she is shortly gone and it all slips back again. Yes, I should have made the drive out to the next county on this night, no matter how I felt about driving. I would have been much happier.

Threatening emails and comments from employees of this OCB - as I have received in the past - will not be acknowledged. Legitimate comments are always welcome.


brian said...

Sorry to hear about your experience. It's appalling that people would even threaten you. They are just avoiding the problem when it can be fixed so easily, by providing good service and making good food.

We've learned long ago to avoid restaurants that aren't good after 2 tries or if the restaurant is awful after 1 visit.

With that said, we find Golden Corral's to be fabulous. It isn't by any means a fancy buffet or newly updated like a Mohegan or Foxwoods buffet.

But Golden Corral knows what they are doing and are good at it. Within the past week we went there twice and loved the food, especially the baby back ribs. They are soooo good. Fall off the bone like you described. We love the Bourbon Chicken and the vegetables (green beans, carrots, corn). When food is out on a tray, they promptly refresh it. We've tried OCB in the past and it's like night and day when compared to the Corral.

Anonymous said...

great article

Anonymous said...

OCBs Levittown General Manager does not know how to run a restaurant. She is running it to the ground. I see all the old managers left, and now I know why. You cant run a restaurant without employees. They had a very good manager there for a few years, Michael F., the young man knew what he was doing. He ran the kitchen, he ran the restaurant. What restaurant do you see that only has 1 mgr on duty to run a restaurant of that size. He did it. He went to a highly recommended Culinary school, the Culinary Institute of America he informed me. Each time I went there he would walk around and make sure everything was going smooth. He would interact with the customers. The food was full 95% of the time and when he saw it was emptying out he would go in the kitchen and bring out more. He was there Sunday mornings and even cooking and flipping those omelettes out in no time. He seemed very dedicated to his job. Then at the end he told me he asked for a raise and they couldnt give it, he told me he was leaving. If that young man was still there today that restaurant wouldnt be falling apart like it is doing now. He should of been hired as the new General Manager. Its very hard to find good mgmt today, so make the ones you have happy. I been in there last month, and the place is terrible. Dirty looking, food is always empty, tables not cleared off, managers not experienced. Just terrible. Good Luck to OCB.

dave1973 said...

If this Old Country Buffet that's near your home a corporate owned location, don't be surprised if it closes once the lease expires. That's what happened at one near my home. The Hobart, IN location went thru 2 - 3 managers, & except for the last one, did not know how to run the place. It had such bad service, food wasn't always replenished, & overall wasn't clean. The last manager fired a lot of workers, but the damage was already done, as that location's reputation was damaged beyond repair. Too many people had such bad experiences with that location, that even with that manager's changing things for the better, that it closed. It lost too much money that Old Country Buffet decided to close it after the lease was up on that location. The manager transferred to another location, because that manager did well as an assistant manager for the Highland Indiana location, & made an effort to try & get business turned around at the Hobart, Indiana location.

To Brian: Glad to hear that Golden Corral is doing good for your area. I can't say the same thing for my area. The Merrillville Indiana location is alright, but still needs improvement. The Schererville Indiana location has the overall worst service if you're white, & get waited on by a non-white server. The location is overall poorly run, food cold, still dirty, & even has bad managers. I made a complaint about this location on Golden Corral's facebook page, & I'm now banned from their facebook page, & complaining to corporate via phone & e-mail went nowhere. That experience left me rather bitter that I will no longer patronize Golden Corral. I plan to blog about it too in detail. They're too high anyway, & don't find their food all that great in my area. The Schererville GC has had lots of negative reviews on various websites. With all that in mind, you'd think that corporate would step in & fix the problems that the franchise owner isn't, but corporate seems to be condoning the problems. I expect that location to close one day.

songbird's crazy world said...

My significant other lives near this OCB. He took me there once last year. I refuse to go back.