Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Sad Deline of Luby's Cafeterias

When I was a kid, I went to San Antonio to visit my aunt. She took me to Luby's Cafeteria. I was an instant Luby's fan.

A couple of years before she died, when I was on another visit, we went to Luby's again. That was at least 50 years after the original visit. I could be wrong, but I believe the cafeteria was in the same building as it was when I first went. It was for sure pretty much the same menu, served in pretty much the same way.

But something happened. The Pappas brothers have bought an interest in the old cafeteria chain, and they've started doing things differently. Naturally the prices went up. They've kept going up, in fact, that that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about changes.

The first insidious change was to the menu. My favorite dish (and, I thought, the favorite of many), the cheese enchilada platter, was dropped.

After a while, the warming trays disappeared. Yes, "presentation" has become important even in cafeterias, so the food is in platters and bowls now. It's not as warm as it was when it came from the trays, but the presentation is classier.

More recently, the little carts with coffee and ice water and tea disappeared, too. Instead, a person in a red coat rushes up to your table and says, "I'll be your waiter today." Waiters? In a cafeteria?

A geezer such as myself can accept one change. With bad grace, naturally, but still . . . Two changes is pushing it. The third one's the charm. After more than 50 years as a Luby's customer, I won't be going back. There's only so much an old guy can stand.

9 comments:

  1. John McAuley6:43 PM

    Bill: Angelo's Coney Island Restaurant, Flint, Michigan-- Back in the day [60's-70's] there were some unwritten rules--you didn't throw up on the floor or do the kind of business that would piss off the cops that ate in the back booths. And if you filched an ashtray that said "Stolen From Angelo's Coney Island" you left an extra buck for the waitress.
    These days you're more liable to get arrested for stealing an ashtray than for selling crack [rock or vertical] in the parking lot. And the menu prices have quadrupled... well, at least for the coney dogs...Its been a while since I've talked to any of my old drinking buddies on the city P.D., so I don't know about the other stuff.
    Hey you kids, get off my damn lawn!
    John McAuley

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  2. I'm opposed to change, John. And to kids on my damn lawn.

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  3. It is a shame. I too went there when I was young and it was just as Bill described it. Luby's bought out the Wyatt (not sure of the spelling) cafeterias 10 or 12 years ago. Perhaps it was too much to bite off. A lot of the places started a buffet service. I think all of those locations have closed. As the prices went up the quality went down. The location (on 281) near me is still open but I haven't been there in years.

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  4. Judy and I used to eat at the Luby's at Baybrook Mall near here fairly often. I'm not going back.

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  5. Anonymous7:15 PM

    Why do I have a feeling the change to a "wait" staff is not for hospitality but so they can stop paying minimum wage and now give their employees $2 an hour as a "waiter?"

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  6. You might have a good point there.

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  7. My name is Michael and I used to work as wait staff at the Baybrook Luby's. Indeed, we did and still do make $2.13/ hour. I am sure that the Pappas brothers knew exactly what they were doing when they implemented this. I have since been fired since I didn't show up one time. Oh well. On to the next thing. You can reach me at michaellee@michaelleesecurity.com

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  8. Anonymous4:55 PM

    To Bill
    I used to eat there for 16 yrs and you are right the changes were just too much. Used to be the food came raw and fresh and was prepared in house now it comes in bags and frozen. It has become more like Furrs Cafeterias than Luby's.

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