Maid-Rite still on the ‘loose’ in Greater Des Moines
For the past month and a half, Maid-Rite Corp. President and CEO Bradley Burt’s phone has been ringing with calls from concerned customers wondering why his chain’s flagship restaurant at 2729 100th St. in Urbandale had closed.
Today, its replacement, a shiny new 72-seat restaurant complete with retro purple hanging light fixtures, neon signs and chrome-trimmed red diner booths and a drive-up window, will open at 8789 Northpark Drive across from the Hilton Garden Inn. The high-profile location near the 86th Street interchange on Interstate 35-80 is symbolic of the increased visibility Burt has been working to build for the loose-meat sandwich chain, which will celebrate its 80th anniversary this fall.
“We feel this is an excellent location,” Burt said at the new restaurant last week, as employees completed a five-day training course in preparation for opening. “It has good access from the interstate, and with the theater nearby, it’s a major destination for entertainment. Plus, you’ve got the offices here and the hotel across the street.”
Burt was forced to close the former Urbandale restaurant after its lease ended and the owner subsequently demolished the strip center for new construction.
The new Urbandale restaurant, which anchors a new strip mall built by Regency Commercial Services, will be followed in August with the opening of a Grimes store on Iowa Highway 141 at 112th Street, Burt said. Other locations for new stores in the near term include a smaller Maid-Rite Express in Ames, as well as a store at Pleasant Hill and on Ingersoll Avenue near 42nd Street in Des Moines.
As part of an ownership group that purchased the company in 2001, Burt and his wife, Tanya, set out with a goal to reinvigorate the well-known brand and to introduce consistent quality into franchisees’ operations. Since then, they have overseen the launch of new stores in seven Midwestern states, but at the same have closed a greater number of underperforming outlets, which has kept overall growth stagnant. The chain now has 67 franchise-owned locations and five corporate-owned restaurants, a net decrease of three stores from two years ago.
“You have attrition in any business, and that’s especially true in the quick-service franchise business,” Bradley Burt said. “You’re dealing with all kinds of different skill levels with the franchise owners.” However, the parent company is having some success in convincing owners of existing franchises to adopt Maid-Rite’s new standards, he said.
The new stores planned in Greater Des Moines are among about 15 franchise agreements that are pending. Additionally, Burt said he has signed an area development agreement with the owner of a Wisconsin-based convenience store chain that plans to build a minimum of 60 new restaurants in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Maid-Rite is also introducing a new menu item, Genuine Broaster Chicken, at each of its locations through an agreement with the Beloit, Wis.-based Broaster Co. The product fits in with the healthier lineup of foods the chain has introduced, including salads and French fries made with no-cholesterol oil, Burt said.
Burt said he’s looking forward to seeing familiar faces at the new restaurants.
“I think the most rewarding thing that we’ve encountered is the popularity of Maid-Rite and the loyalty of our customers,” he said.
Bradley Burt, president and CEO of Maid-Rite Corp., and Tanya Burt, executive vice president, try out a booth at their company’s newest corporate-owned restaurant in Urbandale. The company plans to open four additional stores in Greater Des Moines.