Restaurant chain places an order: One helping of Storm Lake's growth

Monday, November 27, 2006

Iowa success story

Another business is targeting Storm Lake for a new development.

Bradley Burt, CEO of Maid-Rite Corporation, said that plans are in place to locate one of his restaurants in Storm Lake - a city where Burt fondly recalls working years ago as a banker. For a time he also oversaw the operations of a hatchery and the former Vilas plant.

The Maid-Rite company is now looking for a site and seeking an entrepreneur to operate the restaurant as a franchisee as soon as possible.

"Because of the lodge, waterpark, condos and opportunity for growth, we think Storm Lake is an ideal place to locate," Burt said. "Storm Lake is going to be the retail hub of the region."

"With the university there as well, it is a very well situated community."

Maid-Rite is an Iowa success story, founded in Muscatine, with 70 restaurants operating including 39 in Iowa. The company is celebrating its 80th anniversary this month.

In 1926, Fred Angell, a respected butcher in Muscatine, combined a special cut and grind of meat with a selected set of spices and created the sandwich that gave birth to the chain.

As legend goes, Angell asked a delivery man at his shop to taste his sandwich creation. After a few bites, the taster exclaimed, "You know, Fred, this sandwich is just made right."

In addition to ground beef sandwiches, the menu includes such popular items as breaded tenderloins and home-recipe onion rings. Some restaurants also include Blue Bunny Ice Cream Shoppes.

Bradley and Tania Burt now head up an investment group that purchased Maid-Rite in 2002. At the time of purchase, Maid-Rite was somewhat of a sleepy little restaurant chain in the Midwest that needed to be reinvigorated and retooled, the couple says.

At Maid-Rite, franchisee owners and managers are trained at Maid-Rite University in classroom and on the job training.

The Des Moines-headquartered company has been using a cooking oil since 2003 that has zero Cholesterol and zero Trans Fatty acids, a decision that was made before the government started promoting such health-minded actions.

Maid-Rite's new decor scheme will feature unique diner-style counter stool and booth seating, much like the diner look of the 1920s and 1930s.

The Burts plan to have over 300 new successful Maid-Rite franchise restaurants opening in the next seven years, and a thousand by 2020.

In a poll that was conducted by the Des Moines Register, Maid-Rite sandwiches were listed among respondents as one of their top favorite Iowa foods ranked along with such icons as corn on the cob, the Iowa pork chop and the Muscatine melon.

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