Pizza Ranch opens in Cottage Grove

By Bruce Karnick
Posted 9/21/23

Cottage Grove became home to the newest Pizza Ranch & FunZone Arcade on Monday, Sept. 18. The well-known Midwest restaurant chain provides a faith and family-focused restaurant with a full …

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Pizza Ranch opens in Cottage Grove


Cottage Grove became home to the newest Pizza Ranch & FunZone Arcade on Monday, Sept. 18. The well-known Midwest restaurant chain provides a faith and family-focused restaurant with a full buffet, carryout, and delivery, as well as a FunZone Arcade featuring interactive games for all ages.  

Franchisees Ernie and Kristine Swanson Sr. were eager to bring the Pizza Ranch brand to the Cottage Grove community. The Cottage Grove location is the third Pizza Ranch owned and operated by the Swansons. The couple has created a family business over the decades running their Pizza Ranches in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Their children, Ernie Swanson Jr., Jennifer Swanson, and Julie Hove will be managing the new Cottage Grove Pizza Ranch after years of working and managing together at other locations. 

Training for the new Pizza Ranch crew began on Sept. 10, and the team got their first chance to serve the Cottage Grove community with their soft openings the following week. All proceeds raised from the restaurant’s soft opening were donated to Basic Needs Inc. of South Washington County – a local thrift store that raises money to help provide support of those who lack basic needs such as housing, food, clothing, and coordinated services. Pizza Ranch collected non-perishable food items from guests in exchange for the food served at the soft openings. 

The Journal was invited to tour the new location and enjoy lunch last Friday. I brought my 21-year- old son with me because Pizza Ranch is one of our favorite places to go. We both instantly noticed the bright yet warmth of the restaurant. This location features a couple major differences from other Twin Cities locations. Pizza Ranch has long had a rustic cowboy/cowgirl theme with beautiful wood grains being the centerpiece to the style of the building. The Cottage Grove location was built with a new concept, multi-colored walls with a brighter ambiance and they nailed it. It just feels different, the old rustic look was cool, but this just feels cleaner and more inviting. 

Another difference is their FunZone, an arcade with prizes and a lot of games for a smaller footprint. We both enjoyed our time in the FunZone. We were not the only ones, many people, business members from the community, went back and had a good time playing games. 

While touring the restaurant Friday, I took the opportunity to do a Facebook live video on the Cottage Grove Journal’s Facebook page showing the open layout, color scheme and the cool new features of the newest Pizza Ranch. I cannot express just how impressed I was with the building. They have two larger rooms that can be reserved for parties at no additional cost, the only rule is, each person in the room must purchase a buffet. They also have one large room with two partitions that can break down into three smaller rooms for parties. All five of the rooms have quick access to the buffet area as well as the FunZone. 

The doors opened on the new Pizza Ranch Restaurant & FunZone Arcade at 11 a.m. Monday morning and the Cottage Grove team is grateful to be open & serving their community. 

The piece to keep in mind for the next month or so, this is a new job for many of the employees. During the soft opening, everyone was extremely nice, and they did a great job with the customer service aspect of the job even with the stress of a packed house. The technical aspects like entering custom orders and stocking the buffet were a bit tricky. It takes time for people to become proficient at these kinds of jobs. Please be patient with them, they are all learning. If you sit back and watch, you will see that the management staff have hired some excellent people from the area, people that are friendly and care about good customer service, something you cannot train. If you plan a visit to Pizza Ranch, understand they will likely be very busy, so please show kindness and grace while you enjoy delicious pizza and chicken in a beautiful facility. Oh, and bring some extra cash and go play in the FunZone arcade, you’ll have a good time.