Friday, July 29, 2016

Premium Weekends at Golden Corral

Early in 2016 Golden Corral instituted a new "promotional feature" - an increase in price to $13.99 on dinner from Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday all day. This promo actually ended and prices went back to usual but then recently it was brought back.  For the additional cost you get "Prime Rib", teriyaki steak, and fried butterfly shrimp. If you happen to unfortunately be in a Golden Corral that already has a $13.99 dinner price all of the time, your special promotional price is $14.99. On top of these prices you pay for your soft drink at well over $2.00. So your "affordable" buffet dinner with soft drink becomes over $16.50 or $17.50 each.  Add sales tax and tip and you are paying a lot for a dinner for two or more. Does this seem like a feature to promote? It does not to me.

I have been to Golden Corral's twice on a weekend night for this promo and just my luck both were the already $13.99 priced Golden Corrals. I wish that I could say that the addition of Prime Rib makes this "premium" price worth while, but I have to report that what they are presenting as "Prime Rib" is far from it. My first premium meal was at a Golden Corral that has been marginal in my past experiences there and I thought that perhaps it was just at that particular Golden Corral. The Prime Rib there was 90% fat with barely any edible meat on the slice and in between the fat was grizzle. This is not Prime Rib - a poor cut of roast beef perhaps, but not Prime Rib. 

The second Golden Corral that I went to on a weekend night was in a different state. I was hopeful that this experience with the Premium weekend price dinner would be better - it was a better Golden Corral in general and one I had dined in before. I cringed when I paid over $35 at the register for two. I looked at the Prime Rib at the counter and was uncertain if I was even going to try it again. I started with a steak - and steak at many Golden Corrals is done well (depending on who is cooking at the grill). The steak was good. I was going back for another when I decided that I would try the Prime Rib at this Golden Corral. The carver sliced off a thin slice - not much thicker than a slice of roast beef - and put it on my plate. No fat- good sign. When I sat down and went to cut off a piece to eat, it was hard cutting with the steak knife that had no problem shortly before with the thick cut of steak that I just had. I put it in my mouth and I could not chew it. Tough is too mild a term for this meat. I made an attempt but again, it could not be chewed. I tried cutting into another part of the slice - no better. I was able to get a few bits of meat that could be chewed and go down. IT was not tasty and overall again, this was not Prime Rib.

At this Golden Corral I get to try the teriyaki steak.  It was pretty much the regular Golden Corral steak pre-grilled and put out on the buffet server. This particular piece was red rare - just like I like my steak - but others passed it by as not cooked enough. The teriyaki sauce was not overly sweet and the steak was good. Did the teriyaki sauce and not being cooked to order as the regular steaks are justify an additional dollar for the meal?  Of course not.

My wife did have the fried butterfly shrimp - as she was going to try to get our money's worth out of her dinner - and she said that they were OK but no better or different from the fried shrimp served frequently at Old Country Buffet - at the regular dinner price. She was annoyed that several of the usual dishes that she often eats when we are at a Golden Corral were not being served as their place on the buffet now had the Prime Rib, the teriyaki steak, and the fried shrimp.

Overall - Premium Weekends at Golden Corral - big FAIL! As my readers should know by now that I very much like Golden Corral. I look forward to dining at a Golden Corral when I am somewhere near one. They have had some odd promotional features in the past - this one is one of the worst - and that is accentuated by the increase in price for something that is not what it is presented to be. So - Golden Corral, go back to regular price weekends - forget the not quite Prime Rib - move on to a real promotional feature at regular price or just stick with your regular menu as it is really good on its own.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Pie Nobody Seems to Want

For the past three months Old Country Buffet, Ryan's, and Hometowm Buffet, at least all those who are still open, have been trying to sell strawberry pies. This is an odd offer that Corporate has been pushing on the restaurants, sending emails out about it, emailing coupons, and prominently featuring a pie in a glass pie display with a sign on the counter of the cashier. "Take Home a Strawberry Pie! - $9.99"  I have gotten emails with coupons that say - "Buy any adult or senior dinner and take home a Strawberry Pie for $X." I say "$X" because X started out as $8.99, and then another coupon came that said $7.99, and most recently the coupon is for $6.99. At the cashier desk we caught a glimpse of "rules" for the cashier to follow in dealing with customers. One of those "rules" was sell the strawberry pie. Interestingly, we have never been asked to buy a strawberry pie by the cashier.

Now, why do I say this is odd. Certainly other restaurants and buffets have offered their baked goods for sale to take home - those they are well known for, those that customers can't get enough of. Well, the odd thing here is that they don't serve this pie in the restaurant. It has never been on the buffet and customers have never had an opportunity to taste it. When we asked if the pie is on the buffet when we first saw it at an OCB a few months ago, we were told that it would be on the buffet dessert bar in June. June came and went  - no strawberry pie.

You also have to wonder what are they looking to feature with this pie. Their great baking? It is not so great. In fact in all of the OCBs, etc. that I have been in over the years the baking is just fair. Often cakes are dry, baked goods are either over baked or under cooked, and frankly, their baking is nothing to brag about. I have taken and not eaten almost raw corn bread, crunchy stale chocolate cake, and other desserts that were not good at all. Where did they get the idea to sell pies that they don't serve? I wish I knew. But with this Corporation nothing makes sense.

Does the pie look good? I am not sure if what is on display is a real pie. I wonder if it is then at the end of the day what happens to it? It certainly is not cut up and put out on the dessert counter before closing - at least not when I have been there at that time. Is it the same pie sitting there day after day? I hope not, but it does not look like it is not fresh - yet it has sat there from opening to closing - with its dabs of whipped topping around the edge and its strawberries in glaze filling the pie shell. I say whipped topping because what OCB, etc.  put out on the dessert bar as whipped cream is a thickened artificial whipped topping that is not good. This has also shown up on other desserts.

And the price! I know bake goods sell at high prices these days - but I have bought some really excellent pies at bake shops for less than $9.99. I recently bought an exceptionally good Lemon Sponge Pie for $8.00. Selling an untasted Strawberry Pie for $9.99 where the baking is just fair is not a great sales idea. Now, had that pie been out on the buffet and people had a chance to have a slice - and they liked it, this would be different. 

I also have to wonder what happens if someone actually buys a pie. Do they run into the kitchen and start baking a fresh pie? Is it ready when you leave? Are they keeping a stock of pies in the kitchen that never seem to sell? I have never seen anyone buy a pie - and we have been in remaining OCBs since this pie feature has been introduced. Are the pies frozen and sold that way? I don't know. I certainly hope that these pies are not made each day and sit in the kitchen for as long as it takes to sell them - because I doubt they ever sell.

I hope that selling the pies is not a test of which locations they keep open. It would be terrible if not being able to sell these pies meant your restaurant was no the list to go next! Is selling pies no one has ever tasted going to bring the company out of yet another bankruptcy or boost income to the point that restaurants show a profit? I don't think so. It is all just so bizarre!

Here is a clue Ovation Brands or Food Management Partners or Buffets, LLC or whatever you are calling yourselves these days - if you want to sell a pie in a buffet that costs the ridiculous price of $9.99 - put it out on the buffet and let your customers find out that they like it - maybe then you will sell a few pies!

Just as this article was about to publish, it was learned that they have given up on selling the pies. As I suspected, no one bought them. It was said that more time was made in making the display pie each day than it was worth as the pies did not sell. So apparently that display pie every day was the real thing. I wonder who ate it - or after sitting under glass all day it was likely tossed.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Price Increase at Yummy China Buffet, East Meadow, NY


Yummy China Buffet was our Top Asian Buffet for 2015. At the time of the article detailing that honor we knew that the weekend price - Saturday and Sunday - had increased to $15.99 starting in 2016. The price has just gone up again - only now the prices for all nights have increased with Monday to Friday dinner now at $15.99 and the Saturday/Sunday/Holiday price now at $17.99. Lunch prices Monday to Friday are now $9.99.  These prices do not include soft drinks. We did not see the sign - which is large and behind and above the cashier desk to the outside wall about the prices until we were seated and had started dinner. Had I seen the sign when we walked in I would have walked out.

This is a small buffet that has good Chinese/Asian cooking for an Asian buffet. We have noted this buffet as Best Asian Buffet in 2014 and Top Asian Buffet in 2015. To be a Top or Best Buffet one of the criteria is value for the money spent - and this buffet just priced itself out of that.

We have dined at this buffet for dinner on weeknights, Friday nights, and weekend nights. There has never been more than six tables (including ours) occupied in this restaurant with two dining rooms and a party room. When it opened under this owner and management it was overpriced to the point that the night we went in to try it, we walked out as soon as we heard the price. It took about a year for the buffet to lower its price to a more reasonable price for a small buffet that is in competition with several Asian buffets that have always been lower in price within a radius of less than ten miles, and a very large Asian buffet not far away with a higher price but that offers a great deal more in variety. With the lack of business it is hard to understand why this buffet does not come closer to the lower prices charged by its competitors. There is never even close to a full house at this buffet. I have often wondered - even here in articles how they can remain in business with the little business that they get - and perhaps they need to raise the prices to maintain the cost, but if this is the case it is a desperate move that will put them out of business.

They are calling themselves a "Sushi and Seafood Buffet" but there has always been Sushi and the seafood that is there at this increase in price is little different from what was there before. In the last couple of visits we found that they had added raw Oysters on ice to the buffet. Oysters are nice, but I will tell you that I will not eat raw oysters that are not being consumed frequently by diners present which insures that freshly shucked oysters are going out to be eaten. That certainly does not happen here and the oysters remain on the ice and I have seen that they begin to look glazed over. No, cold oysters have to be shucked shortly before they are consumed raw. They added fried fish to the buffet along with the same shrimp dishes, salmon, half fried crabs, and single leg crab legs that have always been on the buffet. Other than the crab legs all of this is at the lower priced Asian buffets in the area including the raw oysters. What was labeled as a crab dish was not real crab. It was the fake crab made from a fish often called "Krab". Krab does not have the same texture as real crab - and too many Asian buffets are calling Krab dishes "Crab" - which they are not. If I don't see it in the shell at Asian buffets lately, I know it is not real crab by the texture, consistency, and appearance of the meat. For $15.99 I should not be served Krab and have it called crab.

I have also recently observed that temperatures of some of the buffet trays are not being maintained and some of their signature dishes are still there but just not as good as they once were. One of our readers had commented and also emailed to say that they thought that the buffet was under new management (which it isn't) because they had come back with friends for a meal and the food was not as good as it was on past visits. I confirmed that the management is still the same - and at that time we had a good meal as we always had - at $13.99 - and commented that to the reader. I have to say right now, that I, too, find that things are not as good as they had been - and now for a higher price.

If you want to overpay for what you can get at lower prices nearby or don't want to pay a little more for a greater and fresher variety of foods then go. It is still mostly good. I am not going back and at this point I cannot recommend this buffet because there is better value out there near by - some of which feature coupons in advertising that make the prices even lower. Is the cooking as good elsewhere? If this was five months ago, I would have said no. Things are not as good here now - and you are paying more for it.  This really saddens me. I have really liked this little buffet. I have been a big champion of seeing it succeed. There has been a Chinese buffet in this location for may years - various names and various owners - some better buffets than others. If I see a reduction in price, I will go back and try it again. With the current prices, I am not going back.

See our other articles on this buffet for the location if you want to go.