Bigger and better: Pizza Ranch to reopen after tornado

Nov. 24, 2020

From the day a tornado destroyed his restaurant, Todd Pharis had a motto:

“Bigger and better, I said from the day it happened,” said Pharis, a franchisee for the west-side Pizza Ranch, destroyed in the storm that slammed into Plaza 41 in September 2019.

“We’re just going to come back bigger and better.”

On Dec. 1, that’s what will happen.

The 12,000-square-foot restaurant has a similar layout to what customers will remember, with “a thousand little changes, all those things you’d do to your house if you could rebuild,” Pharis said.

The restaurant sports Pizza Ranch’s newest decor package – from flooring to wall colors, tables and booths. There are eight party rooms instead of six.

But the biggest gain might be the Fun Zone arcade.

“We added more space, and we do not have a drop ceiling – it goes clear to the roof – which gives it a lot more volume,” Pharis said. “I think we’ve got 40 new games, and they’re the hottest games in America right now because we were able to order brand-new ones.”

The redemption counter also is “quite a bit larger,” with more prizes, he said.

He estimates it’s a $2 million remodel for the location.

“Fortunately, we had great insurance, and that made it pretty easy rebuilding. That was the whole key,” he said. “It really made a terrible situation pretty easy, as easy as it can be.”

All 110 employees were paid during the 15 months the location was closed.

“And we expect 100 of them to return, plus we are hiring another 20 to 30 new employees,” Pharis said.

He can justify the extra space too. The location at 41st Street and Kiwanis Avenue was the top Pizza Ranch in the country, averaging 35,000 customers inside each month.

“I believe it’s the No. 1 restaurant in sales in Sioux Falls,” Pharis added. “I think it’s the great location, great concept, we’re really involved in the  community, and we really pay attention to our core business, which is buffet, carryout, delivery and a ton of catering.”

Pizza Ranch corporate has taken notice, recognizing Todd and Patty Pharis for their 25 years as franchisees. They started with the Brandon location in 1992 and have been franchisees for multiple locations since then, including Tea and the east-side Sioux Falls store.

The west-side restaurant also was awarded the Pizza Ranch Community Impact Award for its service to the community following the tornado. Pharis is co-franchisee of that location with his son, Michael, and Mark Moeller.

“The winner of this year’s award is a great example of what it means to positively impact your community,” said Pizza Ranch chief vision officer Perry Krosschell.

“The sheer number of things they were involved in is impressive, but the fact that they did much of this with a closed restaurant set them apart.”

Over the past 12 months, the 41st Street Pizza Ranch volunteered at Habitat for Humanity, Feeding South Dakota, Laundry With Love, Sioux Falls Cares, St. Francis House and hosted a blood drive. The community award donated $1,000 to Feeding South Dakota.

Pizza Ranch has benefited from its diversified approach to operating this year, Pharis said.

“We’re pretty fortunate because pizza has gotten a lift from the COVID-19 crisis, especially if you do delivery and carryout, which we’ve always specialized in. Prior to the tornado, we were doing 56,000 deliveries a year out of that location, and we expect it to be twice that this year with COVID. We have 14 delivery vehicles at that location.”

Inside, customers will find pandemic-related changes, including distanced seating, disposable gloves at the buffet, nine sanitizer stations and a new air purifying and ventilation system. Each table is sanitized and disinfected after guests leave.

It’s the final business to reopen at Plaza 41 following the tornado. Hours are 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

“The three of us took a lot of time and made all the changes we would have liked to have made prior to the tornado and incorporated a lot of the new ideas we had,” Pharis said. “People are really going to be amazed when they see all the changes.”

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Bigger and better: Pizza Ranch to reopen after tornado

“We’re just going to come back bigger and better.” And it did — take a look inside Pizza Ranch, reopening soon.

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