RHINELANDER – A fully staffed kitchen cranking out fresh, hot food on Wednesday morning gave Bill Hoffmann confidence in the plan he and his wife hatched long ago.
“We’re ready to go!” Hoffmann said.
Seven years after Hoffmann and his wife stopped at a Pizza Ranch in Iowa as customers, the couple cut the ribbon on their own 5,000 square foot restaurant in Rhinelander.
“When they started painting the walls and putting up the signage, that’s when it was, yeah, this is it, this is actually happening,” Cory Hoffmann said.
The Hoffmanns got city approval for the restaurant next to Kwik Trip on Eisenhower Parkway last fall, broke ground this spring, and watched construction progress through the summer while working through some building delays.
Hoffmann says the hardest part was hiring and training the 85 employees who come from Rhinelander and communities like Crandon and Eagle River.
“To a lot of people, this is going to be like a second home,” Hoffmann said. “It’s almost going to be like going to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving dinner or something, and we can do that every day of the week.”
All those new hires got put to the test Wednesday, with the first of two “soft openings” free to people with coupons. Retired teacher and now Pizza Ranch employee Susan Grekso wants to make sure she gets all of those customers to come back and bring their friends.
“Word of mouth is a strong, strong advertiser,” Grekso said.
The restaurant should also get a boost from joining the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce. The Hoffmanns did so months before they were ready to open. The Chamber was happy to add another restaurant to its nearly 370 members.
“They’re all different, they all have something different to offer, different environments, different menus,” RACC Executive Director Lauren Sackett said.
The Hoffmanns know their restaurant certainly fits that billing. Now, they’re ready to show people why this dream was worth the wait.
“Build everything around the community and not just be a restaurant,” Hoffmann said. “We want to be a very integral part of the community.”
The Hoffmanns will hold one more “soft opening” on Thursday. Pizza Ranch will fully open to the public Monday at 11 a.m.