Customers still mourning the loss of Old Country Buffet in the Twin Cities can start strapping on the feed bags.
Golden Corral, the nation’s largest chain of buffet restaurants, will be taking over the former OCB locations in Maple Grove and Maplewood and possibly up to five more in the Twin Cities.
The Maple Grove location is expected to open in August and the one in Maplewood in October.
“We’ve always wanted to be in the Minnesota market,” said Bob McDevitt, senior vice president of franchise development for the Raleigh, N.C.-based chain.
The high price of real estate in the metro area and presence of Old Country Buffet, which started in Minnesota in 1983, kept Golden Corral, which has 500 restaurants in 43 states, out of the state until now.
In February, Old Country Buffet’s parent company decided to close 74 restaurants, or 30 percent of the chain’s total, including seven in the Twin Cities area — in Maplewood, Richfield, Crystal, Roseville, Fridley, West St. Paul and Woodbury. Two others, in Maple Grove and Coon Rapids, closed soon after. And the parent firm, Buffets LLC of San Antonio, began a bankruptcy restructuring the following month.
Golden Corral also is looking at former Old Country Buffet spots in Woodbury and Rochester.
The only Old Country Buffet location still operating in Minnesota is in Burnsville, and McDevitt expressed an interest if it becomes available.
“It’s real important to secure the property at the right price for this model to work,” he said.
All-you-can-eat buffet restaurants have declined in popularity as consumer tastes shifted from traditional cafeteria-style service to made-to-order food that is considered fresher.
Old Country Buffet, which was based in Eagan until 2012, went through bankruptcy twice in the past decade. It was sold to a South Carolina firm that later became part of Texas-based Buffets.
Middle-class families and senior citizens continue to make up Golden Corral’s demographic, McDevitt said.