THE PRODUCER- Pizza Ranch: From small towns to big states

By Eleni Upah

Small Iowa towns are often left forgotten and underappreciated. But if you do a little research, you’ll find some of their histories have made big impacts on both the state and the nation.

Hull, Iowa, is one of those towns. Its population hovers closer to the 2,000 mark than the 3,000, but it wasn’t too small to be home to the very first Pizza Ranch back in 1981.

Pizza Ranch has its roots in the small town of Hull, Iowa, but people throughout the nation know and love it.

Pizza Ranch has its roots in the small town of Hull, Iowa, but people throughout the nation know and love it.

Residents can thank Adrie Groeneweg for that. At 19 years old, he founded the Pizza Ranch business with six specialty and single-topping pizza recipes developed by his mother.

It didn’t take long for the restaurant to gain popularity. In 1983 the second location opened in Orange City, Iowa, where the headquarters are now located. The lunch buffet was introduced in the same year.

Pizza Ranch’s growth progressed steadily from year to year, now adding up to more than 180 locations in 13 states — 16 of which are in Iowa.

The buffet is still growing in the metro area, with locations popping up in Waukee and Urbandale in recent years.

Local owners of the Iowa-based franchise have been dedicated not only to Pizza Ranch as a business, but as a service for Iowans.

“My wife Tonya and I chose the Pizza Ranch as a way to give back in communities and make a big impact in communities with schools, athletic programs and non-profit organizations around Des Moines,” said Brian Hotze, who, along with his wife, owns and operates the Altoona, Waukee and Urbandale locations.

The buffet-style restaurant has grown to serve much more than pizza throughout the years. It also offers a salad bar, dessert pizzas, soups, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and other similar sides.

Pizza Ranch serves a wide-ranging audience with its variety of foods and eating options.

“It’s a great value for the dollar for families in a great family dining environment,” Hotze said. “Besides buffet dine-in, we also offer pickup, delivery and catering opportunities.”

Pizza Ranch is a customer-oriented business, so much so that they started emphasizing “Buffet Your Way” in 2009 to allow guests to request their favorite pizza and have the first slice delivered straight to their table.

That’s the kind of friendly environment small Iowa towns bring to the table. RELISH        

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