RAGBRAI LI Route Announced on Jan. 27!

Suggestions to Town Businesses

I wrote about this in another forum thread, but thought that we Ragbrai riders could help the local businesses and organizations with suggestions on how to maximize their income off of the Ragbrai throngs.
==For example: I always stop at the first Bloody Mary stand or bar I see. Once I had not even ridden a mile and Hey! Bloody Marys and Mimosas! Ride Off! I prefer stopping in at the local town bar for a cold one, as I like to slide up to the bar and have a chat with the locals and of course the bartender. I found so many of these bars without proper signage to lure riders in. Signs should be in bold lettering and up high in order to see above the hundreds of walkers on main street. Advertise your “specialty”: Bloody Marys, mimosas, vodka lemonades, etc., and the price as well.
==All signage should be up above the six foot human wall of cyclists walking through town.
==I prefer live music of any sort when coming into a pass through town…DJs blasting Journey and Lynard Skynard gets old by the fourth town. It can be the high school marching band, polka group, a lone guitarist, fiddle, garage band, barbershop quartet! The towns should have all their locals come out and play and sing! Show off!
==Last year one of the pass through towns had hay bales scattered through the park, which was great as either a seat or to lean against while eating pie! Hard to find places to lean against in the town square as all the trees are used to hold up somebody’s bike.
==Signage for the free water rig would sometimes be helpful if it is off the main drag a bit.
==I love the “welcoming committees” as you ride into town: the cheerleaders, the little kids on the curb hi-fiving you, high school band group. This is one of the “bits” of Ragbrai magic that I tell others down here in FL about when they crunch up their forehead in that confused dog face and ask: “Why do you ride across Iowa?”
==Simplify menu and prep staff. We stopped into a lovely Mexican restaurant last year at an overnight town and they were SLAMMED! Our lovely waitress didn’t know anything about the fact Ragbrai was coming into town. She was all over the floor as they were understaffed. They were running out of everything. Restaurants need to have a special small menu on Ragbrai night so they can get the food out quickly and maximize profits by turning tables. This restaurant had a massive menu that no doubt destroyed the kitchen staff that night. They should have had pitchers of margaritas ready, and maybe a beer special – buckets so a waitperson can serve a handful of drinkers/diners with one bucket instead of five glasses, etc. I saw so many potential diners walk in, and walk out when witnessing the madness. Was sad to see that restaurant not able to do their best and miss out on greater profits. What should have been a historic night of business for them is likely recalled as that “Horror Night of 2016!”

All I have for now. I hope other Ragbrai brethren can add their ideas and suggestions for all of our near future host towns and businesses.

Ride On!

7 Replies

Niles, April 23, 2017 at 7:57 pm

Your story is almost the same as mine about the Chinese restaurant in Centerville last year. The owner is a new immigrant so he didn’t even know about RAGBRAI was coming. He also served the full menu instead of “RAGBRAI special”. My suggestion to him was too late.


jwsknk, April 24, 2017 at 8:06 am

round the price up or down to the nearest doillar, nobody wants to carry a pocket full of change and do you want to take the time to sort it out and count it back? Keep the line moving, it’s about volume.


WrightBrother, April 26, 2017 at 9:39 pm

The following should be


for all local food establishments (not taverns, though):
1) All wait staff and all kitchen staff work when RAGBRAI is in town
2) Draw up a RAGBRAI menu of your top 10 dishes from your regular menu
3) Stock up on those items and be prepped and ready to go
Nearly every restaurant I’ve attended in the week of RAGBRAI is understaffed, overwhelmed, and under-prepared. They use their regular menu and it takes half an hour to get waited on and another hour to get served your food. If they merely follow these 3 rules, they can serve many people quickly and rake in the money for the big payday that RAGBRAI brings to their towns and businesses.
I would willingly pay a dollar or two above the regular menu price for a well-made meal, I do understand that there is a limited choice for where to eat in town and that there may be restaurant owners to want to cash in on this huge crowd. But, if you do not have enough waiters or cooks and it takes me 20 minutes just to get a waitress, then I will gladly leave and spend my food dollars at the grocery store or the street vendors. My time is more valuable than wasting it waiting for a meal that is probably no better than the vendors.


hnschipper, April 27, 2017 at 8:42 am

Some of the best service we’ve had at local restaurants are those that ditch the regular menu entirely and go the buffet route. Limited to three or four entrees, and that’s it. Keeps the line moving, and wait staff can focus more on refilling drinks than taking orders.


jake d, April 28, 2017 at 8:42 pm

Yes, there are many things that local restaurants could do better, like limiting there menu and having lunchroom seating. However, if they don’t even know we are coming, that’s a failure on the towns part. As far as staffing, if they know we’re coming, they have everyone working. They’re just not used to serving
a thousand people in one night.


Lodie, April 29, 2017 at 6:59 am

I have seen the “slammed, overwhelmed” dynamic in restaurants along the way but I have also seen well prepared but under utilized local spots. We always try to hit local, non-chain restaurants to make sure the towns gain something out of this mammoth invasion. Two years ago we found a gem of a breakfast place – buffet, bloodies/mmimosas, ac and indoor bathrooms with no line!! But almost no patrons, because the town was so crowded and they had no sign outside.
Restaurants off the beaten path need especially to let people know what you have. Put up signs at the nearest camping/parking area or the route.
Riders do want something other than the same street vendors night after night, help us find it!


Brian Wallenburg, April 29, 2017 at 1:55 pm

1) All wait staff and all kitchen staff work when RAGBRAI is in town

Guess that all depends on how the owner wants to compensate employees. Sure, the ones that get tips make out like a bandit, but who tips the dishwasher and cook? You can easily deduct that if there’s not enough help, there wasn’t enough incentive!


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