The Woodhouse Restaurant (King’s Food Host)
The Woodhouse is a long-time local restaurant primarily known for its phone-based ordering system and menu that includes Cheese Frenchees (often spelled Frenchies) and “world’s best” hamburger platters with fries, onion rings, and coleslaw.
The Woodhouse offers a traditional diner-style menu. The restaurant features a large dining room – with a separate section that can be closed off for private parties, drive-through service, and catering. Indoor service is limited. Guests seat themselves and place orders at their leisure through a phone system connected directly to the kitchen. Until recent years, gratuity was discouraged.
William Wood opened the restaurant in 1969 as a branch of the multi-national chain King’s Food Host. Its affiliation with King’s ended in 1979, at which point it became “The Wood Host” prior to evolving into Woodhouse. The Woodhouse assumed most of the well-known aspects of King’s.
In 2017, The Woodhouse was put up for sale after 48 years of ownership by William Wood. It was sold in 2018.
King’s Food Host
King’s Food Host was once a multinational restaurant chain. 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.
Lone Survivor in Bismarck
The Bismarck location, renamed The “Wood Host” Restaurant in 1979 before evolving into Woodhouse, appears to be the only survivor of the chain to still operate in the same format. Other than a change in name, the addition of a drive-through, and minor remodeling, it has seen little change since first opening.
The Woodhouse takes its name from William Wood, who established the local franchise upon opening in 1969.