Friday, February 26, 2016

Ovations Brands AKA Food Management Partners Is At It AGAIN!

I am sorry to interrupt our series on the Top Buffets of 2015, but this is just too major to not report on right now. I was recently informed by one of our readers "in the know" that a Fire Mountain Buffet (one of the Ovation Brands/OCB buffets) was recently closed in Chippewa Township, PA. It seemed to me that perhaps this was a random closing until just searching for our favorite Ryan's Buffet in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We looked at the Ryan's locations listings as we wanted to sign up at that location for Ryan's coupons through the "Crave Connection" club. When I searched the locations, no location came up for Fredericksburg. We have been there many times and as recently as August. It was then that I started to realize that Corporate is on the rampage again - and sure enough, I confirmed that the Fredericksburg, VA Ryans was closed.

I started to do a little more digging and not only were these two buffet restaurants closed but 74 buffets including Old Country Buffet, Hometown Buffet, Ryan’s, Fire Mountain and Country Buffet restaurants. This was reported on February 4, 2016 so this happened just prior. I was told that the closings were done in typical Ovation Brands fashion - employees and management arrived for work to find the doors locked shut and were told by Corporate representatives that they no longer worked there. Goodbye, farewell, no notice, you are gone! This is exactly what happened in 2008 and then again in 2011 and still again in 2012 when Ovation Brands, then called Buffets, Inc. went across the country closing buffet restaurants. This past August, 2015 Ovation Brands was bought by Food Management Partners and it was speculated as to what they would do with the chain of buffets that they acquired - all of the Old Country Buffet, Hometown Buffet, Ryan’s, Fire Mountain and Country Buffet restaurants. Well now we know. 

Quoting from The Free Lance Star - -  “Since that time, we have continued to execute former management’s operating plan to stabilize and enhance the performance of the company,” Peter Donbavand, Ovation Brands’ vice president of business development said in a news release. “However, based on ongoing assessments of individual restaurants, it is necessary to shutter locations for the continued viability of the brands and our employees.”  He goes on to say that they will continue to operate the remaining buffets that they acquired as they are "financially viable".  From the same source he is also quoted as saying, “We know that these decisions are not easy, however, we strongly believe that this direction is best for the long-term health of all brands.”

There is indication that when Food Management Partners took over they cut salaries and benefits of both restaurant managers and employees. These guys came in with a heavy fist.

The Ryan's in Fredericksburg, VA was a favorite of ours. It was a must stop when going through that area - on the way south and then again when on the way back north. If I had to say what was the best Ryans we have ever been to it would be the Fredericksburg Ryans. It was a Ryans that maintained many of the featured entrees from the original Ryans menu and while it has to incorporate many of the dishes from OCB after the so-called merge of the chains, it kept serving Ryan's favorites. It had the best grill of any Ryans that we have ever been to - with people at the grill cooking who knew what they were doing. Ask for a steak rare - and if they did not have one they put a steak on and cooked it for you - with an apology that it would take several minutes. And then when it was done the person behind the grill would come out to your table with the steak on a plate and hand it to you. No other Ryans ever came close to that in our experience. We were so disheartened when we learned that it was closed. Table staff were good as well - as was management. We went into Ryans this past August with a Crave Connection email coupon. The cashier looked at the coupon and was confused - as it was offering dinner at a price higher than what they charged. She called over the management and we explained that the coupon came from out of Virginia. Not a problem - he took their current price and discounted it to the same percentage as the coupon would have come to had we used it at home. All with a smile. This specific restaurant will be sorely missed.  If they were not doing well, it can not be due to location - they were located in the middle of a major shopping center, and it cannot be due to competition - there is no OCB for many miles and the only other buffet chain - but not that close - is Golden Corral. As I have witnessed, Corporate seems to push these restaurants to the point that they cannot maintain adequate staffing which ultimately results in poor customer service and satisfaction - plus they push the OCB menu on the other restaurants that is not at all as good as, for example, the original Ryan's menu was.  Heck, they do this with OCBs as well!

Our condolences go out to all of the employees and managers who have lost their jobs. I am so sorry to learn that this has happened to all of you by this corporation once again. We invite any employee or manager who would like to leave a comment about what happened at your location and what went down that day that they showed up to tell you to go home (please be as civil as possible as we will not print anything that is defaming or vulgar - and I know that this is how you are all feeling right now).

Now I am off to find out what other Ryans that we have gone to are now gone too.

Top Buffets of 2015 will continue with the next article.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Top Buffet 2015 - Yoder's Restaurant and Buffet, New Holland, PA.

As was stated in our last article, the Top Buffets for 2015 (there are four of them) are not listed in any particular order. There is no ranking position. All are equal Top Buffets for 2015. With that we start our Top Buffet 2015 articles with Yoder's Restaurant and Buffet in New Holland, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

We have written about Yoder's many times over the years. There were some physical changes at Yoders in 2015. A new dining room was designed and installed in the restaurant. In the area that was once rows and rows of booths, the room was turned into a more formal dining room atmosphere. Gone are most of the booths (but new booths not what was there) and scattered around the floor are free standing tables. The walls have been redecorated also with large photographs of the same scene of Yoder's farm in each of the seasons. The dining room has gone from a cafeteria/fast food look to a restaurant dining room. We were very impressed when we first walked in during 2015 to find this change. There does not seem to be any loss in their ability to accommodate as many diners as they always have.

Yoder's is not a big, sprawling restaurant. The buffet is bigger than some and small than others. There is always plenty of foods and a variety. Plus the building can accommodate very large groups for meetings, programs, etc. and often these include dinner at the buffet. Large groups coming in off the street can be accommodated as well in another dining room.  This is a family restaurant and buffet.

The food at Yoder's is good. There is a different theme feature each night and the themes reflect the types of foods on the buffet. While Saturday night's feature has not changed, for some reason we "discovered" it this past year - and Yoder's became our go to buffet on Saturday nights when we are in Lancaster County. Every night is good, but compared to other buffets in Lancaster, Saturday gives the selections we are looking for at just the right price. If for no other night Saturdays makes Yoder's a Top Buffet for 2015. The theme for Saturday is Pennsylvania Dutch but this does not necessarily mean you will find the usual PA Dutch foods found at some of the other Lancaster buffets. You may find some of those but the two featured entrees - among the other entrees are Marinated Steak and BBQ Baby Back Ribs.

Let's talk a little about Saturday nights in Lancaster. There is no one time of the year that would be considered "Tourist Season" in Lancaster. It is more crowded with tourists in the summer months but it can be just as crowded with tourists in the Spring and Fall. During the winter after Christmas, things slow down until the Spring, but you can still walk into a buffet restaurant during that "off time" and find a lot of tourists. Are tourists a bad thing? No, but I would much rather be dining with local people in a local atmosphere without bus groups and the tourists. Yoder's is a local restaurant - and if you have read this site before and read one of our Yoder's articles you already know that it is located inside a supermarket building - which as I have said before - is not uncommon in this area. This is not the type of restaurant/buffet that attracts tourists. It also is not priced for tourists and the price for the buffet at Yoder's - especailly on a Saturday night is quite good.

I like steak. Saturday night, as said, features marinated steak. This steak is served to order and cooked on a char-grill. The marinating gives the steak a nice flavor and more than once I have had this steak exactly how I like it - charred crisp on the outside and still red, juicy and rare on the inside. You are getting a whole steak - not a piece of steak cut off from another. If you happen to miss being at Yoder's on Saturday night, the marinated steak shows up on Monday night too!

There are always some interesting entrees and sides on the buffet at Yoders, and we have some favorites here. It is not often that you find Baked Oatmeal at any buffet - including in this area. This is not a breakfast dish - this is a side dish or a dessert. Here there is generally two types - one plain and one with fruit such as blueberries baked in. The macaroni and cheese is thick and gooey and good with a crumb crust on the top that just makes it right. There is often a combined casserole dish of some type - one was smoked sausage with potatoes in cream sauce. Some have been unusual and tasty.

There are two soups - some unusual. Ham Vegetable soup was particularly good. There is a nice salad bar with several types of lettuce and all of the toppings, plus a good assortment of prepared salads. For bacon lovers, try hot bacon dressing which is always on the salad bar. Desserts are plentiful and are located at several spots - an entire double sided buffet of prepared desserts, a wall of cakes and hot desserts including hot shoo-fly cake, a rotating glass case of pies, a sundae bar with soft serve ice cream and if you go to the opposite side of the room along the wall where the soups are, a hot counter follows along with hot sticky buns, iced cinnamon rolls, the baked oatmeals,

Service is always good. The buffet is open until 8:00 pm but don't get there at the last minute as they do start closing down the buffet at closing time. Yoder's is open from Monday to Saturday with their regular buffets - and unlike most other buffet restaurants in Lancaster, is open on Sundays until 2:00 pm with a Breakfast Buffet Brunch. The restaurant closes on Sundays at 2:00 pm.

As said this is a must go on Saturday nights for us and we have heard from a number of others who feel exactly the same. With that and all of the rest of this buffet meeting this site's criteria for a top buffet, Yoder's is a Top Buffet for 2015!  

Yoders  is located at Yoder's Country Market, Route 23, New Holland, Pennsylvania. The phone number is (717) 354-4748. There is a website posted at the side of this page.