Wally Kennedy: Pizza Ranch about to open on Range Line

·3 min read

Jul. 8—Pizza Ranch, 3223 E. 20th St., the latest entry into Joplin's booming restaurant market, is set to open at 11 a.m. Monday if all goes as planned. Buffet and salad-bar lovers could be in for a real treat.

I got a tour of the new restaurant earlier this week from Jen Dial, a Joplin native who is the assistant general manager. She gave me the tour while the training of new employees was underway.

Almost all of them are coming from Joplin. Pizza Ranch is not bringing in a bunch of employees from other restaurants in the chain to help with the opening. There will be three days of intense training and a soft opening that lasts two days.

The buffet layout is simple. There's pizza first, then the fried chicken with sides, like mashed potatoes, and then the salad bar.

After that, it's off to a spacious dining room. The chicken, by the way, is advertised as "The Country's Best Chicken."

Dial said the salad bar at Pizza Ranch will be a cut above the competition. While I was there, an electronic display flashed that the buffet lunch was $11.95 and the buffet dinner was $14.50. Kids eat free with an adult purchase on Tuesday nights.

Pizza Ranch offers about 14 specialty pizzas, ranging from buffalo chicken and bacon cheeseburger to chicken broccoli alfredo and barbecue chicken. You can also create your own pizza by choosing your crust, sauce and toppings. The menu also offers appetizers, salads and wraps.

Pizza Ranch offers a special coffee that comes from Ethiopia. Money raised from the sale of this coffee helps support schools in Ethiopia. This is part of Pizza Ranch's mission to positively impact the world.

The restaurant has five community and event rooms that can seat from 10 to 30 people. The rooms are available at no cost with a buffet purchase.

The restaurant also has a FunZone arcade with 27 new games and a photo booth. Arcadegoers will purchase a digital card to access the games.

The franchisees are Josh and Misti Comer, formerly of Joplin, now living in Williston, North Dakota. They also are building a Pizza Ranch in Williston.

"It's the faith-based part of this company," Misti Comer said, "that drew us to the company. We wanted to bring it to the community where we are from."

Pizza Ranch, founded in 1981 at Hull, Iowa, has catering, carryout and delivery. For deliveries, call 417-691-8304. You can order online at pizzaranch.com.

The Joplin restaurant is the 222nd in the chain.

The opening of Pizza Ranch will be the third restaurant opening on or near the strip this year. The first was Chick-fil-A at 3509 S. Range Line. The second was Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers at 1237 S. Range Line.

All of these real estate transactions, including Pizza Ranch, were handled by Alan Buttram Commercial Real Estate, of Joplin. The company also handled the recent sale of the Pacific Rim restaurant on Range Line.

Disruption ahead

After a premature start a month ago, it appears the Range Line Road bridge over the Kansas City Southern Railroad will close in about 10 days. That section of Range Line Road — all lanes — will be closed to through traffic for up to 87 days, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Contractor crews will remove the current bridge and replace it with a new structure that will be 2 feet higher and 15 feet wider than the current one. The contractor also will construct new sidewalks on either side of the bridge.

The current structure was built in 1976 and is experiencing increasing deterioration. Approximately 24,580 vehicles cross the bridge daily.

Drivers will have access to entrances on either end of the bridge, but will not be able to drive through the work zone. Drivers will be directed along a signed detour.

The bridge will be reopened to traffic no later than Nov. 1. The prime contractor for the $6.2 million project is Hartman & Company Inc., of Springfield.

Contact Wally Kennedy at wkennedy@joplinglobe.com.