Other strategic pivots include adding chicken tenders and improving chicken wings, as well as trying drive-up windows at five stores. Both the tenders and wings proved popular with off-premises customers, and Groeneweg says the items’ portability helped boost sales.
One of the biggest factors in getting people back through the doors is cleanliness and letting customers know they are visiting somewhere that is sanitized and meets current safety standards.
“In today’s world you have to be clean, and that was another focus we put out there,” he says. “You can’t just be clean. You have to be spotless. And that’s been another great thing for us because you can walk into any Pizza Ranch and it shines.”
The pivots enacted by Groeneweg and his team have proven to be successful. The brand plans to open 10 units by the end of the year in Missouri, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois.
FunZone shows progress, as well. Along with the 20 new FunZone units planned for 2022, year-over-year revenue was up 85 percent in Q1, something Groeneweg attributes to families wanting to get back into the routine of dining out.
“It’s been great for us,” he says in regard to FunZone being added to Pizza Ranch locations. “it’s going to be a big part of our future.”
Groeneweg says FunZone is an incremental benefit for several reasons. First, it allows families to hangout while their kids burn off some energy. Many Pizza Ranches/FunZones are located in cold-weather markets, and the arcade provides a warm, community gathering place.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the margins are favorable. Instead of running roughly 25 percent labor costs like many kitchens, the arcade only requires about 10 percent.
Groeneweg says the profitability of arcades replaces Pizza Ranch’s reliance on alcohol sales.
“It’s kind of a magic thing for us,” he says. “People spend a lot of money in there … older people, younger people … you can give your kid 20 bucks and they can spend it over 45 minutes while you’re sitting there eating.”
After several franchisees successfully debuted FunZone in their units, Groeneweg knew it could provide a huge boost for the company, especially in locations that had plenty of room.
The partnership has worked so well that all future Pizza Ranch stores will feature an arcade, and some existing restaurants will have it added if they meet certain criteria, like parking capacity.
“I don’t ever see it in 100 percent of our stores … but for most of our stores, that’s not going to be an issue,” he says about existing units getting FunZones. “We’re going to give them the green light.”
Groeneweg doesn’t anticipate Pizza Ranch’s or FunZone’s growth to slow down anytime soon.
In fact, he’s hoping the brand will grow until it reaches 500 units. To reach that mark before Groeneweg retires, the company will need to open around 25 units a year for the next 10 years, a goal he thinks is more than attainable.
“I don’t want to retire until we hit 500 stores,” he says. “Everything is geared toward that 500.”