Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Pizza Ranch Chicken Blues

  My birthday was last month and the Pizza Ranch of Marshalltown sent me their annual birthday letter with ‘buy one get one free’ coupons for their pizza buffet, 8 pieces of chicken, and a pizza. Last year I took my birthday off from work and used the buffet coupon to take Kathy to the Pizza Ranch for lunch to celebrate. We got there a little before noon and while we liked the salad bar, the fried chicken was greasy, the pizza so-so, the mashed potatoes crusty, the staff non-existent, the ice cream runny, and there was this group of people two tables over that were loudly discussing how much they drank and vomited the night before, occasionally interrupting their reminiscences with impromptu belching contests. The best part of my birthday lunch was that I didn’t pay full price.

Happy Birthday to me!

  Since that unfine dining experience, I hadn’t been to a Pizza Ranch until I went to the one in Jackson, Minnesota in August when I accompanied a group of chess players after we finished playing in the Jackson Open. It was late and the buffet was closed but we were hungry and it was the only restaurant in town still open after 8pm. Everyone else had a personal pizza but I was worried about falling asleep on the 4 hour drive home with a pizza in my gut so I ordered a side of garlic cheese bread instead. The garlic cheese bread was great – thick soft bread with a generous layer of gooey pizza cheese on top. It was so awesome that the next weekend I dragged Kathy to the Pizza Ranch in Marshalltown so she could have some of this great garlic cheese bread I discovered at the Pizza Ranch. Unfortunately, Marshalltown, Iowa is not the equal of Jackson, Minnesota when it comes to Pizza Ranch garlic cheese bread. Kathy’s garlic cheese bread was dry with a thin layer of burnt brown cheese on top and she thought I must have been so crazed with hunger in Jackson that anything I ate would have been the best food ever.

  My birthday came and went and the Pizza Ranch coupons sat by my computer unused until 2 weeks ago when I decided to take Kathy out for dinner at the Pizza Ranch. We got there during the dinner hour. The place was packed and there were Pizza Ranch workers everywhere. We paid for the buffet and found a table. I got some fried chicken and Kathy had some pizza. The chicken was fresh and not greasy like it was every other time I’d eaten it. I had some mashed potatoes and they were also fresh. I got more chicken and some salad from the salad bar and enjoyed everything. Kathy had some salad and some more pizza. The staff was buzzing all over the restaurant picking up empty plates and offering hot fruit covered desert pizza to the customers without them having to get out of their chairs. We each had some ice cream from the soft-serve machine and it was so thick that we could hold the cones upside down and nothing would spill out.

A well deserved outstanding review!

  It was a great dining experience and changed my mind about the Pizza Ranch 100%. I wrote a very complimentary review on Google+ about my experience. I spent the next week looking at my two remaining Pizza Ranch coupons. I thought quite a bit about getting the chicken. On Sunday I consulted my two fried chicken consultants who were unanimous in encouraging me to go ahead and order the chicken so at 4:15 I called the Pizza Ranch to find out how much eight pieces of chicken cost.

My fried chicken consultants nodded their heads so fast at the thought of getting 16 pieces of fried chicken I could hardly get a clear picture!

  I was told that eight pieces of chicken cost $11.99. This seemed a little high to me but I had the buy one get one free coupon and 16 pieces of fried chicken at $11.99 is quite a good deal so after verifying that my eight pieces of chicken was going to be an entire chicken and not a mutant chicken like the kind I get at Haley’s Deli (three legs, four wings, no thighs, and one breast) I asked if I should just head down to the Pizza Ranch or if I needed to let them know in advance. The Pizza Ranch phone person said I should let them know in advance so I wouldn’t have to wait. I ordered the 16 pieces of chicken and the Pizza Ranch phone person took my name and number and said I could pick up my chicken in 20 minutes.

  It was 4:20 so I watched some football for 15 minutes before heading the three miles south to the Pizza Ranch. I arrived at 4:40 and got in line behind a group of three couples that were getting the buffet. Finally it was my turn. I gave my name and the cashier said ‘Oh, you ordered the chicken.’ She said it would just be a few minutes and gave me a cup and said I could have a free soda while I was waiting.

  I took a seat at a small table close to the cashier. The Pizza Ranch dining room was pretty full and there was a birthday party in the large privte room. Staff members were buzzing all over the restaurant bringing out fresh food from the kitchen and picking up empty plates and glasses. The buffet seemed to have an ample amount of chicken. There was an older lady at the table next to me holding a bag containing two takeout boxes. She didn’t look very happy. A staff member asked her what she was waiting for and she said ‘I’m still waiting for my chicken’. It was almost 4:50 and I suspected I might have a problem. The staff member said he would check on her chicken and I set the alarm on my amazing iPod to 5:05 and started doing chess puzzles from my Chessimo app. In a couple of minutes a staff member gave the old lady at the table next to me a box of chicken and she was on her way with a mutter and a grumble.

  At 5:05 my alarm went off a full 45 minutes after I ordered my chicken over the phone and I was still sitting at this small table. I didn’t see any point in making a scene so I went to the counter, waited behind some people paying for the buffet, and when it was my turn I told the cashier that I was very sorry but I had to go and I wanted my money back. The cashier offered to check on my chicken. I said I was very sorry but I needed to go and I wanted my money back. The cashier then said she had to ask the manager and disappeared into the kitchen.

  After a few minutes the cashier and the manager both came out. The manager had two boxes of chicken. I was about to tell the manager that I wanted my money back but she went straight to the register, started counting money out, and said “I’m giving you the money back and you can have the chicken too.” I wasn’t mad at Pizza Ranch. I kind of felt sorry for them being so incompetent they couldn’t manage frying a couple of chickens and putting them in a box in less than 45 minutes. When I worked at the Roy Rogers fast food restaurant we had two chicken fryers with 16 piece baskets. The chickens took a couple of minutes to prep and 9 minutes to fry. No one ever waited a half hour for their chicken.

  There was no reason not to have my chicken ready except someone forgot to make it and once I arrived at the restaurant there was no way I should have had to wait 25 minutes to get my chicken and even then it only made an appearance after I said I wanted my money back. I thanked the manager for giving me my money back but told her that she could keep her chicken. The cashier held up the chicken and waved it like I wave Daisy and Baxter’s beef sticks in front of them to get their attention and said “Are you sure you don’t want the chicken?”. I was pretty tempted to say a lot of things, but I just said “Keep the chicken." The manager rolled her eyes and gave me my money and I was out the door and home at 5:15, almost a full hour after I decided to order the chicken in the first place.

I wish I could have added more good comments to my review instead of 'The Rest of the Story'...

  My fried chicken consultants were disappointed when I didn’t come home with the chicken and will probably be apoplectic when they discover that I not only could have had the chicken but I could have had it for free. I was pretty proud of myself for not blowing my top at the Pizza Ranch. If I had taken the free chicken it would have given them the impression that their customer service wasn’t important since they could just buy someone off with some free food whenever they dropped the ball. I like to think I saved at least a few future Pizza Ranch customers from waiting for their chicken over the next few weeks. And besides it would have taken me and my consultants a week to eat all that chicken and I’ll get another coupon next year.

My fried chicken consultants were very disappointed that I didn't bring home any chicken.
Hopefully they won't read this post and find out I could have had it for free.