August 12, 2009

Buca di Beppo buyout has ruined everything

My wife really likes Italian food (or whatever you want to call shaped pasta and some tomato or creme based sauce combined in a variety of ways that all taste about the same but have different names) and she wanted to go out for her birthday.   There happens to be a Buca di Beppo right down the street from our house that we pass on the way home everyday.

I have never been a big fan of the place because it seems overpriced and the “Buca Large” dishes are almost always smaller than what I think they should be to feed 3-4 people.  Plus, I noticed about a year ago (around the time of the buyout by Planet Hollywood I think) that the “stuffed chicken” (I don’t remember what they call it) is $18 and some change for “Buca Small” which is  2 pieces of chicken and $28 for “Buca Large” which is 3 pieces of chicken.  That third piece of chicken costs more than the first two!  I’ve pointed this out to people at Buca at least 3 times and they don’t even bother to lie and say that the “Buca Small” chicken pieces are smaller.  Needless to say we always get the “Buca Small”.

Anyway . . . this time we go in and the food is good (well, the chicken was a little burnt but I didn’t bring that up as no one else complained at the table) but then it was time for dessert.  We wanted to get a “Celebration Cake” for Sarah’s birthday as we had it about 5 months ago (the last time we were there) for our anniversary and it was good cake and it was enough for *at least* 4 big servings.

The waitress comes by to pick up some dinner plates and asks if we want any dessert beside the birthday cupcake.  We ask about the “Celebration Cake” and she said that they don’t give out the celebration cake anymore for birthdays.  We are disappointed but understand and asked for the celebration cake and that we don’t really want the cupcake because the regular cake will be enough.  A few minutes later she shows up with the cupcake and the NEW Celebration Cake and it’s a cake that was half the size of the old cake and it’s not red velvet cake anymore and it’s colored white with three layers to match the colors of Italy’s flag.  HALF the size, same price! I ask what happened to the real “Celebration Cake” and the waitress just says that it’s been a long time since they had that other cake and that this is the new cake.  Okay, what can I do?  So we split up the cake except that now it has coconut so my wife can’t eat it.  Thank goodness for the cupcake.

And . . . the cake was dry . . . it wasn’t impressive at all and worse than what I could have made at home with a 99 cent box of Betty Crocker and some food coloring.

After that I make up my mind that we aren’t going back to Buca for a long time.  But then the waitress comes back with these “prizes” where you bring the envelope back within a few months and open them later with a waitress or whatever and you can win all these fabulous prizes!  I want to tell her to shove those award cards up her you know what but I decide to keep that to myself as I don’t want to embarrass my wife.

But then the “manager guy” had to come over and ask how everything was.  Everyone at the table gave the “great” but I gave a muffled “okay”.  He stuck around so he could tell us about the prizes we could win if we come back before October 5th.  I can’t take it anymore and tell him about the cake and about the the wacky pricing.  Here is about how the conversation went but it was much longer (because of repetition) and more embarrassing that you can imagine for everyone else at the table:

BM (Buca Manager):  If you come back before . . .

Me: Yeah, we won’t be coming back but thanks.

BM: Why?

Me: We got the Celebration Cake and it’s half what it was and it’s not that good anymore.

BM: Well, we change things on the menu to try to better server our customers.

Me: By making it half the size and the same price and still calling it the “Celebration Cake”?

BM: Well it used to be two cakes stacked on top of each other and now it’s just one cake and it’s not red velvet anymore.

Me: Okay, great, I understand that but you came here and asked how it was and I’m telling you it sucked.  You telling me the opposite isn’t making it better.

BM: Well, we want you to come back in and we have a great promotion and . . .

Me:  You don’t want me to come back!

BM: We want all of our customers to come back.

Me: Well, by the looks of this place it seems that people aren’t comming back . . . back in the day this place was always packed.

BM: It’s the first day of school and it’s the middle of the week.

Me: Well, okay great, this isn’t going to get any better but thanks, we’ve paid the bill, we’re good thanks.

BM: We have this great promotion . . . .

Finally he went away but only after my wife was giving me that “shut the hell up” look and saying “okay, that’s enough” as nicely as she could.

I had already paid the bill and was going to leave it at that but after talking to manager guy I decided I would tear up those stupid promotion cards and put them in with the bill.  Maybe that was childish but I think they got the point after that and no one came back to bother us.

Really, this is all Olive Garden’s fault for not building a location closer to our house!


i agree about the cake – the best thing about buca was the original version with the best frosting i ever had, the cake itself had an amazing flavor, and the spumoni chips made it excellent – this “new version” is super cheap with this super-cheap whip cream fluff/substitute for frosting, 3 layers of tasteless lite spongecake, and coconut – it doesn’t make sense at all….

Comment by shaneil — September 9, 2009 @ 11:15 am

OMG! You nailed it! In fact, I found your site while trying to google where I could find the wholesaler that made the cake!! We have had it for my son’s birthday since 2001, and his birthday is next week, and I just found out they don’t have it anymore!! I am soooooo bummed I could just scream! If you ever find the commercial bakery that made them, please let me know. I am kicking myself for not paying attention to the label on the box all the other times we bought the whole cake!!!

I am glad I am not the only one who was pissed! Bet you’ll find more of us in the days to come!

Comment by Norene — September 10, 2009 @ 10:43 am

Yea Bruce Willis really raped Bucca. I thought the place was great for a chain. He bought it and its really beginning to suck major. Raise the price 10-20%. Cheapen the food quality/quantity 10-30% and you have successfully raped the hell outa your customers. Could take 7-12 yrs to bankrupt the place or turn it into a crappy olive garden.

Comment by Joe — April 3, 2010 @ 5:56 pm

We used to visit Buca and hadn’t been back for a long time. We decided to go since we were all hungry. We loved their garlic cheese bread, caesar salad and some main course. This of course was pre buy out time. Well, our visit to the Planet Hollywood owned Buca was awful. The garlic cheese bread missed the garlic completely with garlic seasoning instead of the real deal. Our Caesar salad had no anchovies and the dressing tasted like a store bought bottle version. We were extremely unimpressed. We will not return. Another restaurant that moved to cheaper ingredients, lower quality… RIP Buca…

Comment by Anna — May 28, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

Very great article! Really!

Comment by Osvaldo Rocha — May 30, 2010 @ 11:40 am

So the Bakery that made the AWESOME RED VELVET cake is called Lezza Bakery and they are just outside of Chicago and they do still make the “buca” red velvet cake but you must order it specifically without the cream cheese frosting….. tell them to make it as they did for Buca with butter frosting instead. We drive from Milwaukee just for the cake. WORTH IT!!! We have screamed at various bucca managers to no avail. They need to get a clue! Get out to Lezza and get the cake!!! ONe manager told us that they stopped getting that cake because it was not selling…… well the only reason no one ever bought it was because it was never on any menu…. you had to be a regular to know about it ( which we were before the cake fiasco) Buca, Big mistake… HUge!!!!

Comment by Brian — October 30, 2011 @ 8:49 pm