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The Woodhouse sold; no major changes expected

For the first time since opening in 1969, The Woodhouse is under new ownership.
The Woodhouse (file photo)

The Woodhouse is under new ownership, The Bismarck Tribune reports.

According to the report, Dan Vondrachek II – a Williston lawyer who worked at the restaurant in the 1990s – acquired it. He pledges not to make major changes to the long-time favorite, including its iconic phone-based ordering system and such famous menu offerings as its cheese frenchees and “world’s best” hamburger platters.

Vondrachek will relocate to Bismarck to oversee the restaurant. William Wood, who has owned the restaurant since inception and is its current incarnation’s namesake, will stay on-board for a short period to ease in the transition.

The Woodhouse originated as a King’s Food Host franchise in 1969. Its affiliation with King’s ended in 1979, at which point it became “The Wood Host” prior to evolving into Woodhouse. The Woodhouse has carried over most of the well-known aspects of King’s. It is the sole surving King’s restaurant that still operates in the same format.

Historic Perspective: King’s Food Host

At it’s height, there were at least 136 King’s locations across 17 states and 1 Canadian province, however rapid expansion lead to its rapid decline, causing the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 1974. Its assets were sold in 1978.

King’s Food Host was founded by James King and Larry Price in 1951 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Mr. King left the business in 1960. The first franchise opened in 1961, and formerly adopted a franchise program in 1968. In 1969 and 1970 alone, more than 100 locations were opened.

By 1971, the company hit hard financial times, with a reported net loss of $997,000 for the year. At that time, there were over 100 corporately-owned restaurants and 36 franchises. The company had a net loss of $1,948,987 in 1973, and another loss of $1,985,744 in its fiscal year ending April 1974, leading the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October of that year. The company had hoped to reorganize, but was never able to return to profitability.

Just prior to filing for bankruptcy protection, the total restaurants had declined to 84 corporate-owned, of which only 32 were profitable, and 42 franchises. The company’s revenue was listed at approximately $21 million, down from its peak two years earlier of more than $23 million. By the end of that year, company-owned locations again decreased to 79.