The Dish restaurant is closing, but the frozen pizzas will carry on

01/07/2014 10:00 AM

01/14/2014 2:00 PM

After 16 years in Liberty, The Dish — Famous Stuffed Pizza Restaurant Bar is closing.

Owners Jason and Mattie Ransom will close the restaurant when their lease expires in March and then concentrate on their wholesale frozen pizza business, The Dish Inc.

“We’ve employed literally hundreds of Liberty residents, high school and college students,” Jason Ransom said. “Their parents would come in to see them work. So there’s quite a bit of history there. We wanted to give them the opportunity to come in one last time.”

The Dish got its start from two used deep dish pizza pans that Mattie picked up for just 50 cents at a restaurant supply company in 1995. Jason missed the deep dish pizzas that he had grown up eating in Chicago so she wrapped the pans up as one of his Christmas presents that year.

But it took him a couple of years to perfect his pizza to his hometown standards.

In August 1997 the couple combined Jason’s new pizza expertise with Mattie’s restaurant management experience gained while working at Applebee’s to open the The Dish — Famous Pizza Restaurant Bar. It was located in Liberty Corners Shopping Center, 846 S. Missouri 291.

In 2003 they started manufacturing frozen deep dish and thin crust pizzas to sell out of an ice cream freezer in the restaurant’s lobby. At the end of the meal, customers could just add a frozen pizza to their bill to take home. Then some customers started coming in just for the frozen pizzas.

In 2006 they built a manufacturing facility in back of the restaurant to try to keep up with demand. Three years later they had outgrown that space and relocated manufacturing to 1622 Jasper St., North Kansas City.

The facility’s 10 full-time employees now make six varieties of deep dish frozen pizzas (five-meat, spinach, double pepperoni, spinach chicken bacon, The Works, and sausage and pepperoni) and six varieties of thin crust pizzas (five-meat, spicy barbecue chicken, double pepperoni, sausage and pepperoni, The Works, and mega cheese). The pizzas are sold in 150 grocery stores in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska.

As for the restaurant, revenues hadn’t grown enough over the years to keep up with increased overhead. The Dish also had little restaurant competition when it opened but now is competing with numerous restaurant operations, including many national chains.

“The big part of the growth of the Dish frozen pizza is the local aspect and the grocery chains are embracing that,” Jason Ransom said. “They are looking for local products to differentiate themselves.”

Blanc Burgers consolidates

Local owners jumped on the “better burger” trend in 2008 when they opened Blanc Burgers + Bottles in Westport, with plans to open more locations.

With a menu of gourmet burgers, salads, housemade condiments, and a wide variety of bottled beers and sodas, it was an immediate hit with a capacity crowd on many nights. So it soon picked up and moved to a 5,350-square-foot location on the Country Club Plaza.

Bigger restaurant, bigger revenues, right? Or maybe not.

Just four years after opening on the Plaza, Blanc is closing the restaurant and bar and returning to Westport.

Partner Ernesto Peralta said he renegotiated his lease at 4710 Jefferson St. so it will expire on Jan. 31. He hopes to reopen Blanc at 4120 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 9, in mid-February. Simply Breakfast formerly occupied the 2,300-square-foot space.

It’s been an interesting ride for the restaurant concept. Partner Eddie Crane left soon after the Westport location opened in what was termed at the time as a “friendly divorce.” Remaining partners Peralta and his wife, Jenifer Price, along with chef Josh Eans, then opened locations in Leawood and Omaha, as well as a similar burger concept in Lee’s Summit.

Both the Lee’s Summit and Omaha restaurants closed. Eans also has left Blanc management but kept his minority interest in the company.

Last fall, Kansas City’s Leap Hospitality was brought in as a “consulting management group” to help reduce expenses and create a business model for future growth. Peralta also said he has paid off several thousand dollars in tax liens for 2013 for the restaurant’s parent company.

Still, he doesn’t regret trying out what looked like greener pastures on the Plaza.

“We learned a lot in the process. Our model works better in a smaller space,” he said.

Franks closes on Southwest Boulevard

Franks — with a tag line of “delicious hot dogs, burgers and brats” — has closed at 520 Southwest Boulevard.

Dan Clothier, founder and owner of the gourmet hot dog concept, said it had a strong lunch business but could never attract enough customers during the evenings and weekends to cover overhead.

“There’s a reason there isn’t a McDonald’s downtown. We were fighting the odds,” Clothier said. “Traffic and volume make these deals work.”

Clothier first opened the concept in the West Bottoms in mid-2011, then relocated to the higher traffic Southwest Boulevard location in mid-2012. The freestanding building also had a drive-thru and its own parking lot.

The menu included hamburgers, hand-cut french fries, housemade kettle chips, housemade grilled tamales and breakfast items.

But its core menu items were the charcoal-grilled hot dogs, sausages and brats with specialty toppings — from barbecue sauce to frijoles rancheros.

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