Hillsboro Hut a national chain with a local link

A rose is a rose is a rose, but a Pizza Hut is not like every other Pizza Hut. Each restaurant is the product of the individual owners and managers.

The Pizza Hut in Hillsboro, co-owned by Bob Navarat of Marion and Carol Schroeder-Dahlsten of McPherson, is managed by Toni Williams of Galva.

Williams was hired four years ago after working for five years at a Brahm’s Ice Cream & Dairy Store.

“I was just looking for something different at the time,” Williams said of her decision to move to another chain.

It’s the personal touches that can set one chain restaurant apart from others-like the attention Williams and her staff give to an elderly couple who regularly frequent the restaurant.

“We have a couple in their 70s that come in about twice a week,” Williams said. “They wait until everything slows down, usually about 2 p.m. We watch for them to come, then we get the door for them because she has a hard time getting him in. They’re a really sweet couple, too.”

The recently remodeled restaurant, with a seating capacity of about 106, is approaching 3 years old. It replaced the building that served the community for about 15 years.

An extended menu-not just pizzas-is available from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday.

A lunch buffet is available weekdays between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. with all-you-can-eat pizza, breadsticks, pasta, salad bar and dessert for $4.89 for adults, $2.45 for children 4 to 12 and free for kids 3 and under. Drinks are not included.

During the week, one-topping pizzas and specialty pizzas can be found on the buffet.

Saturday and Sunday lunch buffets, including fettuccine pastas in addition to the weekly offerings, are $5.39 for adults and $2.70 for children 4 to 12.

“Every once and awhile on the weekends, we throw in one of our super specialties, like the taco, the super supreme or barbecue beef,” Williams said. “And we put out fettuccine pastas where we don’t during the week.”

For those with hearty appetites, breadsticks, buffalo wings and garlic bread are offered as appetizers.

Salad lovers can fill up at the salad bar to make a complete meal, to accompany their dinner, or in combination with any of the three appetizers.

Beer is not served at the Hillsboro Pizza Hut.

“I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with that,” Williams said.

The regular menu includes four sandwiches, all priced at $3.79. Diners can choose from the Supreme, with melted cheese over ham and salami, and topped with lettuce, tomatoes and Italian dressing; Bar-B-Que Beef, with hickory-smoked beef and spicy sauce, topped with melted cheddar cheese; Ham ‘n Cheese; and Salami ‘n Cheese.

A children’s menu for 12 and under includes a Pizza Pack for $3.49 and comes with a single-topping personal-sized pizza, soft drink and toy. Children can also choose from a variety of pasta dishes from $2.25 to $3.25 or opt for a salad bar for only $1.70.

Dessert pizzas come in apple or cherry in four different sizes. Also found on the dessert menu are cinnamon and sugar breadsticks with icing for dipping if a sweet tooth happens to kick in after the meal.

And last but not least, the “piece de resistance,” is the internationally known Pizza Hut pizzas.

These vary from personal-sized pizzas starting at $3.75 to large super-specialty pizzas for $15.50.

Crust choices are pan, thin ‘n crispy, hand tossed or stuffed crust.

For the choosy pizza eater, or those who feel creative, 15 toppings are on the menu to make a personal combination.

Specialty and Lover’s Line pizzas are also offered, such as the supreme, pepperoni lovers, or the veggie lovers.

The veggie lovers is Williams’ favorite-minus the mushrooms, she said.

Topping the top of the line are the Super Specialty pizzas.

A super supreme with nine toppings is offered to satisfy large appetites. But Williams encourages the pizza afficionado to try any of the following: Bar-B-Que Beef, Chicken Supreme, Fiesta Taco, El Rancho or Maui Chicken.

During January, the Big New Yorker will be back by popular demand.

“With the college kids, the Big New Yorker is a really good (pizza),” she said. ‘You can turn it around and eat the back part of it, or you can fold it up and eat it.”

Tabor College is important to this local restaurant-and not just because of all the customers it supplies.

“When I first started, Tabor was really good for (hiring) employees,” Williams said. “You could get good kids in from Tabor. They wanted to work. We don’t have so many Tabor kids now. Times change.”

Without the Tabor work force, the staff pool typically comes from high school students or graduates.

Two employees work full time in management positions, and 28 employees work part time.

Most of the training is done at the restaurant with some management classes offered through the company.

Carry-out, delivery and take-home boxes are all available for a variety of lifestyles and situations.

The public hasn’t responded to their attempts to develop a catering clientele, Williams said, but “we do send out a lot of pizzas to Hillsboro Industries and Barkman Honey.”

For orders of 10 or more pizzas, Williams suggests at least a 24-hour notice.

“If we can know before that, it helps a lot better as far as keeping supplies on hand,” she said.

The largest single order to date was 63 medium hand-tossed pizzas for one school event. But Williams remembers a day late in December when she and her staff made 74 pizzas back to back. One order for 44 pizzas was due by 5:45 p.m. with a second order for 30 pizzas scheduled for 6:15 p.m.

“That gets you excited,” Williams said.

Once a month, she and her staff deliver 45 large, one-topping pizzas to the Hillsboro middle and high schools as part of the school-lunch program.

The busiest time of day is 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The biggest lunch crowd comes on Sunday because of the popular weekend buffet.

The smoking section on the north side of the restaurant is also the area reserved for parties.

“The biggest party we had was when the farmers got together,” Williams said. “They were having some kind of meeting and took up this whole back. There’s like 42 who ended up showing up.”

About 40 percent of the store’s business comes from customers who keep coming back. The largest number of repeat customers is during the week-day buffet, Williams said.

The local Pizza Hut gives back to the community through various projects and donations. They have donated T-shirts, money or pizzas to Hillsboro youth baseball tournaments, and money or pizzas at Tabor basketball and baseball tournaments.

Participants in the annual Toy Run during the holiday season receive an ‘entitles card’ for bread sticks, personal pan pizza or sometimes salad or drinks.

Pizza Hut also sponsors the “Book It!” program in conjunction with the schools to encourage reading. For reaching a reading goal, students receive a certificate for a free personal pan pizza and sticker for a ‘Book It!’ button. When the button is full, the student trades it in for a medallion.

“They’re all so excited the first of the year (and some will say), ‘This is my first one, I get my button,'” Williams said.

She said the hardest part of her job is seeing good members of her staff move on.

“When you have tenured people, and you work with them all the time, you do get close to them, and it’s really hard,” she said. “The ones who stay with us for any length of time, when they do go, we do a little party for them, decorate their cars and sign their shirts.”

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