How long has Golden Corral been in business?

5 minute read | Published: March 09, 2024

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Golden Corral fireplace

Despite the jokes and internet memes, Golden Corral is no slouch when it comes to keeping up with the times. They’ve been mixing things up with new additions like house-smoked brisket and ribs.

Plus, have you seen their new locations with modern designs and cozy fireplaces? It’s like dining in comfort central!

And they’re not just sticking to their old stomping grounds—they’ve spread their buffet wings all the way to Alaska.

But let’s rewind a bit.

Back in the day, Golden Corral was just your average family steakhouse, offering cheap steaks that was quite prevalent in the ‘70s.

James Maynard and William F. Carl conceived the idea that eventually became Golden Corral back in 1971. Previously they made several unsuccessful attempts to acquire a franchise with other companies and eventually decided to start their own restaurant business from scratch.

The first Golden Corral Family Steak House opened on January 3, 1973, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Ten years later they had to reinvent themselves to become a buffet and grill restaurant, because that was becoming a growing trend at the time.

In 1991, Golden Corral unveiled its Metro Market concept and opened 7 huge restaurants. These new establishments were approximately 10,000 square feet each, with a seating capacity of 400 to 450 customers.

Accompanying the expanded size was the introduction of the Brass Bell Bakery, named for the distinctive brass bell that chimed every fifteen minutes, when freshly baked bread was available. The Golden Choice Buffet also went thru a transformation during this time, showcasing new and better options.

Also, GC made a shift in its geographical landscape. It used to be that you could only find their restaurants in small towns. But in the 1990s they ventured to metropolitan areas, including Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and the bigger cities in North Carolina.

Today, Golden Corral has approximately 397 locations in the United States, 55 of which are in Texas. Having first opened in 1973, Golden Corral celebrates 51 years of providing its customers with good food at a great price.

Golden Corral’s Most Popular Menu Items

You might be surprised to learn that the top picks at Golden Corral aren’t the flashy new additions which they’ve featured in their ads. Instead, they’re classic American comfort foods that have stood the test of time. According to the Food Network, the top 3 menu items are fried chicken, pot roast which has been slow-cooked for 12 hours, and meatloaf.

In a 2016 report by MSN, the meatloaf emerged as the #1 favorite. However, even the meatloaf found itself in a tie, this time with a dessert that adds a touch of indulgence to the buffet: the Chocolate Wonderfall fondue fountain.

Golden Corral’s Resurgence is One for the Books

Golden Corral’s comeback story has redefined what it means to not just survive but THRIVE in the very competitive restaurant industry.

Under the leadership of CEO Lance Trenary, Golden Corral has staged an incredible rebound from the challenges of the COVID pandemic. Recognition came knocking in 2022 when Trenary was honored with the esteemed Gold Plate Award by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association.  This prestigious accolade speaks volumes about the brand’s strong spirit and the unwavering support of its team, franchisees, and devoted customers.

Golden Corral years

Financially, Golden Corral is hitting unprecedented highs, with average weekly sales per store breaking records at over $85,000, compared to $65,000–$70,000 in early 2021. Same-store sales are also soaring, surpassing pre-pandemic levels by a whopping 30%, showcasing the enduring appeal of Golden Corral’s offerings even in turbulent times.

Franchisees are doubling down on their investments in the brand, doing remodels and expansions that are yielding impressive sales increases of 50–100% compared to 2019.

Innovation is key to Golden Corral’s growth strategy, with plans for expanding one of its latest concepts – the G.C. Grill House – a nod to the brand’s roots as a family steakhouse. A fast-casual prototype featuring modern comfort food favorites is also on the horizon.

Employee happiness remains a top priority as well. Golden Corral offers perks like childcare and transportation assistance, along with competitive wages. This commitment to employee well-being hasn’t gone unnoticed, as evidenced by the brand’s inclusion in Forbes’ list of America’s Best Large Employers in February 2022. Unfortunately, they dropped in the list’s ranking in 2023.

Golden Corral’s 100 Year Plan

Golden Corral’s journey toward its 100-year plan is like a marathon, not a sprint. Back in 2020 when COVID-19 hit and pretty much decimated the buffet industry, it felt like the world turned upside down. But instead of throwing in the towel, Trenary and his team rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

They focused on managing their finances wisely, tightened their belts and gave franchisees some much-needed breathing room.

And let’s not forget about those sanitation protocols—meticulous doesn’t even begin to describe them. From glass barriers around the chocolate fountain to personalized spoons, they left no stone unturned to keep guests safe.

Golden Corral years 3

Sure, there were hurdles along the way. Not every state was on board with the buffet comeback, so Golden Corral had to get creative.

But through it all, they never lost sight of what makes them special: the value-for-money, all-you-can-eat experience that guests know and love.

And hey, who says you can’t teach an old buffet new tricks? Golden Corral rolled out drive-thrus and fast-casual spinoffs, giving people like you and me even more ways to enjoy our favorite comfort foods.

As Golden Corral looks ahead to the next chapter, they’re not just thinking about surviving—they’re aiming to thrive.

Golden Corral’s Keys to Success

Golden Corral’s remarkable success story is built on four pillars that set it apart from other buffet restaurants:

Excellent Value Proposition

At Golden Corral, value isn’t just a buzzword—it’s a way of life. Customers know they can count on this buffet chain for hearty and satisfying meals at affordable prices.

Innovation and Adaptability

The brand is constantly evolving and adapting to meet the changing needs of its customers like introducing new menu items, rolling out innovative franchise programs, and embracing new dining trends.

Support for Franchisees

In times of need, Golden Corral stands by its franchisees with unwavering support. The franchise incentive program introduced in 2022 which offers cash credits to offset supplier costs, reimbursed training expenses, on top of providing marketing support for new restaurant openings, is just one of the examples of its commitment to help its franchisees.

Positive Workplace Culture

According to a recent survey, an impressive 85% of employees within Golden Corral Corporation consider it a great place to work, significantly higher than the national average of 57% for U.S.-based companies. In so doing, Golden Corral not only enhances employee morale but also cultivates a loyal and dedicated team that plays a crucial role in the brand’s overall success.

Perhaps another reason for GC’s successful resurgence, which is worth mentioning here, is that it introduced alcohol in some of its locations a couple of years ago. This move not only expands beverage options for customers but also provides a significant revenue stream for the brand.  The alcohol offerings vary from location to location, however, majority of the options include frozen margaritas, wine, daiquiris and beer.

Golden Corral

Final Thoughts

After 51 years, Golden Corral is only getting better and stronger. Those who want good food at a great price have come to recognize this buffet chain as among the best choices out there.

If you haven’t been to Golden Corral, then perhaps it’s about time you give it a shot. Who knows, you might become one of the many regulars that walk through its doors every day.   

Category: Business Information