The Twisted Road to Success: Just Add Ranch

This is the story of how I got mixed up in what could be the biggest social media coup of 2017. A 50-seat, hole-in-the-wall corner pub in St. Louis transformed into perhaps the hottest lunch and dinner engagement in the country, IF you're lucky enough to get in. All thanks to a 50-second video.

Challenge accepted, because, RANCH!

Last Thursday, my wife presented me with a video she had just watched online. Normally, I might have feigned enthusiasm, however, this was no ordinary video. It was a video about, wait for it.....ranch dressing! Something my family tends to have an unhealthy obsession with. And based on the massive amount of views this particular video is racking up, it's safe to say a good portion of the population has the same, unhealthy obsession. It's a wonder there isn't a day set aside to honor this tangy treat. Oh, wait, see March 10th.

At the time, the video had several million views. Not bad for a feature released just a few hours earlier, eh? The 50-second teaser from BuzzFeed featured an if-you-blink-you-might-miss-it restaurant called Twisted Ranch, and its unique take on the creamy salad topping.  How unique? 27 different varieties, unique. But let's be clear, salad is not the priority here. After watching, we knew a road trip was in our future, like, ASAP.

Less than 48 hours later, we found ourselves waving to the Gateway Arch as we hit the big city, on a quest worthy of the Griswold family. Wait, you've never heard of Twisted Ranch? Don't worry, I would venture to guess even living in St. Louis doesn't guarantee that knowledge. It sits smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood, complete with a church across the street and an outdoor market a block away.

Before I get too ahead of myself, how about some background? Twisted Ranch is the brainchild of Jim Hayden and his business partner. In 2015, the duo came up with the idea of a restaurant featuring an entire menu based on, you guessed it, ranch dressing. Ranch is used in the preparation of everything. Burgers, barbecue, Mac and Cheese, fries, you name it. Nothing goes through this kitchen without either being cooked in or seasoned with a Ranch concoction. After perfecting the recipes, Hayden and company were in business.

A typical lunch and dinner run, according to Hayden, might net a couple hundred guests. But then came the BuzzFeed video on Thursday. In the amount of time it takes to watch, that's how quick Hayden says his couple hundred patron a day business transformed, now looking more like an amusement park attraction minus a fast-pass lane. It's something Hayden says he and his staff were neither expecting, or for that matter, prepared for.

Less than 24 hours after the video hit, people were lining up around the corner, wanting a taste -- some driving for hours. The problem: the restaurant only has 10 tables. Yes, 10. A fact we learned only when Hayden stepped outside to begin taking names for the waiting list. So, with a seating capacity of roughly 50, and a dinner window of just 4 hours, there is no guarantee the dozens waiting outside will get in before the kitchen closes. And being in a small neighborhood, one gets the impression this might be an establishment of loyalists. How will regulars feel about losing their place in line to thousands of hungry tourists?

On this particular night, the dinner session was delayed 90 minutes -- a direct result of the massive crowds brought in thanks to the BuzzFeed video. Turns out, the staff needed time to regroup following the lunch crowd, and presumably have a bite of ranch infused food for themselves.

As the crowd grew outside the now locked door, conversations of "how far did you come" and "what a great idea for a restaurant" broke out. But there were just as many tales of disappointment. At one point, a woman carrying a takeout box from an unknown restaurant whisked by, telling of her 4 1/2 hour wait, only to be turned away. Once safely seated inside, we learned of another woman who drove 5 hours with her family. They, too, despite the argument of a long ride, left hungry.

Without turning this into a review, our Griswold-worthy quest was well worth the drive and wait. Not only did we get in, we got in first! And after identifying myself as an employee of Eyewitness News from Evansville, Hayden agreed to take a few moments for an impromptu interview. Over the past 48 hours, he says he's fielded calls from around the country -- some even inquiring about franchising. That's how hot this place is right now. It seems everybody wants in on his current success. I even got the feeling the priest across the street, who was greeting guests for 5 p.m. church services, wouldn't have minded if the line outside Twisted Ranch had migrated over to his place instead. And while Hayden admits the idea of branching out is pleasing, he has plenty of other things to worry about at the moment like keeping the current flow of curious customers fed. And about those loyal regulars, Hayden says they're taking this all in stride. But I'm guessing none of them will be subscribing to BuzzFeed anytime soon.

Click here to watch my entire interview with Twisted Ranch owner, Jim Hayden.

Click here to watch the BuzzFeed video.
Click here for a link to the Twisted Ranch website.




 


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