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DeRusha Eats: Old Country Buffett

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
Jason DeRusha filed his first report for WCCO-TV on April Fool's D...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Old Country Buffet was in bad shape. Stores were closing, and the company was filing for bankruptcy.

Then came new CEO Anthony Wedo.

“We haven’t done a facelift even for 30 years in this business,” Wedo said. “If you wore the same clothes you wore 30 years ago, you’d be in trouble, right? I mean, you’d stand out in the wrong way.”

Wedo was hired to do much more than a facelift. All Twin Cities restaurants have been completely reinvented.

He’s guaranteeing customers will be happy in a massive advertising blitz.

But when some think of places like Old Country Buffet, images are conjured up of junk food in troughs with people shoveling it down.

“That is an image that certainly has historically been true,” Wedo said.

He reinvented himself as unemployed construction worker Mike Davis on CBS’s “Undercover Boss.” But how did the experience change him and the company?

“I feel very blessed and I think my company was blessed to be on ‘Undercover Boss.’ We had a great experience there,” he said. “I learned a ton about what was broken in my company. You couldn’t learn that if you came in as the CEO.”

Now, OCB feels more like an upscale food court, with dishes like asiago ravioli. The trough is gone, and food is in regular serving dishes like you’d use at home. Ramekins and tiny pans are everywhere.

“We designed a really killer individual portion bread pudding,” Wedo said.

There are 85 new recipes, and those small servings cut down on all the food they were throwing out.

“Frankly it’s a cleanliness and sanitation issue in my view,” he said.

A family of four can eat at OCB for under $40 dollars. They have better food and a better strategy.

“By the way, you know, sales are going up fairly dramatically,” Wedo said. “The change is working … tenfold.”

There are 12 restaurants in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and all of them have been upgraded to the new format.

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