Excited kids running into a Fun Zone

Pizza Ranch ups its game by adding arcades; Minot franchisee leads move to add FunZones

Mike Christianson built his first Pizza Ranch-arcade from the ground up in Butte, Mont., in 2016. The store did so well that he eventually added “FunZone” arcades to his stores in Grand Forks and Fargo. Now Christianson’s template for pizza-and-games has been picked up by the whole Pizza Ranch chain.

Six years ago, Mike Christianson, the owner of the Fargo and Grand Forks Pizza Ranches, had an idea.

Christianson, who owns 10 Pizza Ranches in five states, was inspired by the fact that another franchisee’s Pizza Ranch in Sioux Falls, S.D., had added an arcade several years earlier. So he started making trips to restaurants in Nevada and California to see how to best launch the food-and-games concept popularized by chains like Dave & Buster’s.

“We didn’t start the concept, but we just took the idea and ran with it,” says Christianson, a Minot, N.D., resident who is the Pizza Ranch’s largest franchisee.

Christianson built his first Pizza Ranch-arcade from the ground up in Butte, Mont., in 2016.

The store did so well that he eventually added “FunZone” arcades to his stores in Grand Forks and Fargo . (The Bismarck and Mandan Pizza Ranches are under different ownership but also feature FunZones.)

Now Christianson’s template for pizza-and-games has been picked up by the whole Pizza Ranch chain. Christianson says the chain expects to add 60 FunZones to its current roster of restaurants by the end of this year.

“They do fantastic,” Christianson says. “I don’t know what it is. There is just such a great coupling between food and entertainment. They go together so well.”

The arcades have definitely increased traffic — especially for birthday parties and even business team-building events, Christianson says.

As all the FunZones are outfitted with multiple party rooms, they provide an opportunity for families to purchase “pizza and play” parties (starting at $120), tweens/teens parties or family/group parties.

“We do birthday parties like you wouldn’t believe,” Christianson says. “Kids just love that. Of course, I think the adults love it as much as their kids do.”

Christianson has expanded the footprint of each store to accommodate the arcade section. In Fargo, he added 4,600 square feet to the store at 4480 23rd Ave. S. , bumping up total square footage to over 11,000 square feet.

The FunZones contain 40 to 45 arcade games, which includes favorites like the Ice Man water-cannon game; Asphalt Nine, a racing simulator; Skee-Ball; Down the Clown, and virtual-reality games like Virtual Rabbids .

The FunZone also offers games for younger players, like crane-style games, which will always grab a prize, and a duckling game in which every player takes home a toy duck.

FunZone currency is based on the purchase of a FunZone card , which is preloaded with credits to play different games and can be reloaded when those credits run out. Customers also earn extra bonus points for purchasing a certain amount of credits, Christianson says.

About 70% of the FunZone games are redemption games, meaning they pay out tickets which can then be redeemed for prizes. “A lot of kids will save that FunZone card for later, so if they see a bigger prize, they can save up to get something better,” Christianson says.

Pizza Ranch started as a single restaurant in Hull, Iowa, in 1981 and has grown to include 200 restaurants in over 15 states. The restaurant is best known for its pizza buffet, fried chicken, wings and Cactus Bread dessert pizza.

Article originally published by INFORUM.

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