Pizza Ranch focuses on small town operations | Pizza Operations

Pizza Ranch’s buffet concept focuses on cities with a population of 5,000 or less. Pizza Marketplace spoke with Adrie Groeneweg, founder and president of Pizza Ranch, to find out what makes the brand a tick and what sets it apart from the competition.

Adrie Groeneweg started Pizza Ranch with a few pennies and a prayer. What started as a distant dream in 1981 has since spread to 212 pizzerias in 11 states, with more in the works. Groeneweg, founder and president of Pizza Ranch, “had nothing to lose,” he said, when he launched his pizzeria. Instead, he got it all.

After graduating from high school, Groeneweg was working at a pizzeria part-time while welding full-time. He told his dad how busy the pizzeria was, and his dad ran some numbers for him. Can they open a pizzeria in their small town of Hull, Iowa, which has a population of just 1,800 people? There was only one way to find out.

Adrie Groeneweg, founder and president of Pizza Ranch

Groeneweg’s parents bought a building on Main Street and some used equipment from a pizzeria that was closed. “I think my dad had $73,000 stuck in everything,” Groenweg said in a phone interview, adding that the interest rate was a whopping 17.5% at the time.

In the first year, Groeneweg was not paid to run the restaurant. February was the slowest, and they brought in only $8,700 for the entire month. The second year was even better as word spread, and Groeneweg had already taken home a stipend.

Then the residents of Orange City, Iowa told Groeneweg they wanted a pizzeria in their town, so Groenweg and his parents opened a second store. “We weren’t ready, but we did it and we made it work,” he said.

The following year, a man from Mountain Lake, Minnesota, contacted Groeneweg with a proposal: He wanted to buy a recipe for Pizza Ranch pizza. Instead, Groeneweg sold him a franchise.

Over the next six years, Pizza Ranch grew to 50 restaurants in states including Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota, where small towns are thriving.

“It wasn’t planned,” Grunweg said. It just happened. our position? Towns with a population of 5,000 or less because nobody wants those towns. Some of our cities had a population of 1,000, but it worked.”

Today, six stores are owned by companies and the rest are franchised. Groeneweg has 27 stores with two partners.

Pizza Ranch expects to open 10 stores this year in Missouri, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska and Illinois. In the future, she plans to turn her attention to Oklahoma, Texas, Montana, Wyoming and Arkansas. What you will not do is jump to the coasts where distribution will be more difficult and the brand is not well known.

Buffet Operations

Eighty percent of sales are on a buffet basis. Groeneweg initially did not want to run the buffet concept, but the franchisor spoke with him to let him try it out in his own shop.

“His sales were up 23% to 24% immediately,” Groenweg said. “If sales go up 5%, you have to take a look at what’s going on, let alone 23% to 24%. It took off, and people just wanted it.”

Groeneweg said he’s “very strict” about cleanliness in stores, and Pizza Ranch is constantly updating his concept because he doesn’t want a “worn out” pizza place.

The menu is kept small so items are hot and fresh. The buffet is mainly chicken and pizza, with a few helping items such as mashed potatoes and a salad bar.

“The materials in there are as high quality as you can get in any restaurant,” Groeneweg said. He’s proud to say his concept is a buffet now even though it took “a while to get there”.

Delivery and leasing account for 20% of sales, but during the pandemic this figure rose to 40%. Pizza Ranch had to close a few stores during the toughest part of the COVID-19 closures.

After the pandemic, Pizza Ranch is back at 73% of buffet operations, with a carryover rate of 33%. “We don’t want to lose what we gained there,” Grunweg said.

On the menu, Bronco’s whole-meat pizza is a fan favorite, as is the company’s chicken. Half of the takeaway pizza ranch orders contain chicken. The brand started with deck ovens but eventually moved to conveyors for ease of use.

Modern day challenges

Like most restaurants, Pizza Ranch is battling supply chain problems and staff shortages. Groeneweg estimates that each store will likely have as short as 10 to 15 team members, including management. To meet the challenges of hiring, Pizza Ranch has set up a task force to find ways to work with fewer people.

“We have no choice,” he said. “We’ll have to.”

One of the steps the company is taking is to test bus robots in a number of restaurants where customers place dishes in the robot’s chest while it rolls next to tables.

Third party delivery has also been a boon for the brand, as it doesn’t need its drivers or cars.

“We’re looking at anything we can look at, even if it saves three hours a day somewhere,” Groeneweg said. “It all adds up.”

Regarding supply chain issues, Groeneweg said the seller of chicken at Pizza Ranch called him several months ago and announced that he was giving up the company, and that Pizza Ranch had been with the seller for about 17 years.

“They were like 270 people, and if they get rid of our line, that’s 240 people,” Groeneweg said. “These are problems you didn’t hear about five years ago.”

in the area

One of the biggest differentiators for Pizza Ranch was the addition of FunZones to 40 stores. By the end of the year, Pizza Ranch plans to add fun zones to nearly 60 units. Game rooms came into being when the franchisor, located in a mall, had some extra space and added a bunch of games.

The larger entertainment areas have room for party rooms for up to 20 people and up to 60 games.

“I am amazed at the quality of their performance,” Groeneweg said. “It’s a game changer for us. For our larger markets, it’s more of a destination. Anytime you can become a destination, especially in densely populated areas, that’s a good thing.”

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