STERLING – Sauk Valley residents soon will have a new casual dining option.
Pizza Ranch, a franchise known for a buffet that features pizza, chicken, and a variety of sides, salad, and desserts, will open Monday at 3900 E. Lincolnway. The restaurant will have a pick-up window, and it makes deliveries.
The Sterling site is the third Pizza Ranch for brothers Matt and Mike Middendorp of Clinton, Iowa; their others are in Clinton and Bettendorf, Iowa. They are leasing the building from local businessman Pete Harkness.
City inspectors signed off on the restaurant Jan. 16, not quite a year after construction began. The deal was finalized March 7, and work began on the building that most recently was home to Ryan's Family Steakhouse.
The entire process went according to plan, the Middendorps said.
"Everything came together great, and we're just really excited to be here," Mike Middendorp said.
Four local nonprofits will benefit from the Pizza Ranch opening.
"We do four fundraisers on different days, where we invite 200 people who donate $10 and get cards for their meals," he said.
All those evenings' proceeds go to the charity chosen beforehand. The events benefit the community and the restaurant.
"We always do something like this for our soft openings, because it brings in a pretty good crowd, which helps in training our staff," he said.
Pizza Ranch has a reputation for community involvement. The company also schedules Community Impact Nights, during which a percentage of sales is donated to designated nonprofits.
Beneficiaries of the soft-opening fundraisers usually are chosen through school visits.
"We try to stick with the schools, and then we fill in with other nonprofits if we need to," Middendorp said.
The Western-themed restaurant chain with a Conestoga-wagon logo was founded in 1981, in Hull, Iowa.
Their relationship with Pizza Ranch started when they were young, the Middendorps said.
"We grew up in Hull, and eating there was a memorable family experience for us," Matt Middendorp said. "It's great that we can bring that experience to other families."
Now based in Orange City, Iowa, Pizza Ranch has 200 restaurants in 13 states.