If you're from a small town or even work or live in one, then you undoubtedly know the lure of a Pizza Ranch.
An all-you-can-eat buffet, great pizza, the rustic atmosphere, the chicken … you just can't beat it.
Nick Mapes, owner and general manager of the , totally gets that.
He sees that in the crowds that turn out for the Tip Night fundraisers the restaurant does twice a week, in the families that don't miss a Tuesday night when kids eat free, or in those folks who stop in for the all-you-can-eat buffet and leave full and happy.
"Being in Waukee has been more than we could have ever asked for," said Mapes. "The town is so supportive of us. They love the restaurant. They love the pizza. They love the fact that this is a family-owned restaurant; it's been phenomenal."
Waukee Restaurant is a Family Business
Family-owned - that's one thing a lot of people might not realize about the Waukee Pizza Ranch. It's owned by Mapes and his older sister, Tonya Anderson-Hotze. Anderson-Hotze runs the Pizza Ranch in Altoona, as well.
That's where their story gets interesting. It was yet another Mapes sibling, Waukee Police Lt. Troy Mapes, who convinced the brother and sister team to open a location in Waukee.
"Our brother — he's been living here for 10, 11 years now — said, 'Waukee is a great community. It's a great town and this is a great opportunity. You have to get one over here'," Nick Mapes said. "We already had one over on the east side in Altoona and one of our goals was to expand in the Des Moines market, so it made a lot of sense."
That was almost four years ago.
Today, the business booms with customers who come in not only for the food, but also for Pizza Ranch's Tip Nights, a twice-a-week fundraiser for schools, athletic teams, church groups and other civic organizations looking for creative ways to raise money.
Twice-A-Week Fundraising Opportunities
Jackie Tysdal, a co-vice-president for the Maple Grove Elementary PTO, said she's planned three events at Pizza Ranch — two for her son's baseball team and another for the elementary school. She said not only is the food great, but the opportunity the restaurant offers to organizations helps make for many return customers.
"For fundraisers, you just can't beat it," Tysdal said of Pizza Ranch. "You make a lot of money for just one night of work and they're really easy to work with and very helpful. I also have two kids and whenever we go there, everybody is happy. It's a win-win."
Mapes says he and Anderson-Hotze are looking at other locations around the metro area to grow the business. For now, he says, his focus remains squarely on the customers at Waukee Pizza Ranch.
"Waukee is growing like crazy and we really look forward to growing with it," Mapes said. "Bottom line is we want to make sure our customers walk out of here happy and come back again as a result."
Waukee Pizza Ranch
Where: 448 S.E. University Ave., Waukee
Phone: (515) 978-6603
Hours: Mon. - Thu., 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.; and Sun., 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Additional: Pizza Ranch offers catering, delivery, eat-in and takeout.