Let's face it. The Rim country is never likely to become known as the Fine Dining Capital of the West.
However, if things continue to progress at their current pace, the area will be a shoo-in for another title:
The Fast-Food Capital of North-Central Arizona.
In addition to the abundance of speedy eateries which already line Highways 87 and 260, there is now as of last Monday a Mean Gene's Burgers open for business in Star Valley.
In January, a Sonic Drive-In is scheduled to open on the Tonto Apache reservation just south of the Mazatzal Casino.
And not far behind may be the Whataburger restaurant tentatively slated for construction in the Payson Village Shopping Center, on a commercial pad between JB's Restaurant and Subway.
Mean Gene's Burgers
Mean Gene's Burgers, located in Star Valley's new Texaco gas station, is the company's 37th franchise, said Debbie Fetters, whose interim title within the business is "acting/participating manager/trainer."
This "themed concept restaurant" takes its name, image and a bit of its advertising attitude from former WWF and current WCW interview man, "Mean Gene" Okerlund, who is expected to be present at the grand opening that's likely be held "in six weeks or so," Fetters said.
Okerlund's involvement no doubt explains the chain's trademarked tag-line, "The Burger That Says BITE ME."
Open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Mean Gene's menu features a variety of burger-and-shake combinations, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches, fries and onion rings, as well as such morning offerings as biscuits and gravy, cinnamon rolls and breakfast sandwiches. Food items range in price from $3.30 to $4.39 for "value-meal combos."
In addition to an interior dining room, an outside dining patio will soon be added, along with "a big RV-dump station in the back," Fetters said.
"A big portion of our business is going to be the weekend travelers going up and down Highway 260. But I'll tell you what: at lunchtime (Monday), we just got nailed. They were lined up out the door.
"When you stop and think about it, it makes sense. There are a lot of local businesses around here, we've got all the construction going on in Chaparral Pines and the Rim Club. I think those people are tired of going into town and eating the same old thing. They want something new.
"And there's nothing here for people who live in Star Valley," Fetters said. "So we're offering something to them that they don't have."
At the moment, Mean Gene's has 18 employees, but needs between 25 and 30. "We're still looking for people, so if you know anyone, send 'em over," Fetters said.
Of all of the fast-food franchises available to them, why did the Tonto Apache tribe decide to install a Sonic Drive-In on their reservation?
"The food," says the council's chairperson, Vivian Burdette who is clearly a fan of the 40-year-old chain of drive-thru diners.
But there were sound business reasons, too.
"Most of the other fast-food chains are already in town," Burdette said. "Several years ago we thought about Burger King, and of course Burger King came in. Then we thought about Jack-in-the-Box, and they came in.
"When the possibility of a Sonic Drive-in came up, tribal councilmember Calvin Johnson who was on the economic development board researched the franchise and helped us decide to go with them."
At the moment, Burdette said, "We're just doing all of the preliminaries and groundwork. The restaurant will open 45 to 50 days after we sign (the lease), meaning that we'll probably be opening in January."
To be located just south of the Tonto Apache gas station and convenience market, the Sonic Drive-In will have the advantage of being the first Payson restaurant drivers happen upon as they drive north from the Valley.
Sonic Drive-Ins, complete with carhop service, evolved out of a similar chain called "Top Hat" in the late 1950s. The new name was derived from the Top Hat slogan: "Service With the Speed of Sound."
In 1967, there were 41 Sonic Drive-Ins in operation. By 1984 there were about 1000 located in 19 states. And as of May 32, 2000, there were 2,113 stores located in 27 states.
That success story can no doubt be credited in part to the drive-in concept, which eliminates waiting in long lines at the fast-food counter not to mention the need to even get out of your car.
But Sonic's unique menu has made an impact, too. At no other fast-foot restaurant can you purchase an extra-long cheese Coney, a chicken-fried steak sandwich, a grilled cheese, or a cherry limeade.
No wonder Burdette is so content with the tribe's choice.
Details of Arizona's 39th Whataburger restaurant, and Payson's first, have been elusive.
All that developer George Harrison will say is that the project slated for the Payson Village Shopping Center has been "on-again, off-again for a year now, and we still don't know if it's going to go through."
But this much is known:
Founded in 1950 with a basic menu of Whataburgers (the signature product), cold drinks and potato chips, more than 500 stores had opened nationally by 1995.
The menu now includes all of the fast-food staples: burgers of varying sizes and complexity, chicken sandwiches, fries, onion rings, shakes and fountain drinks.
Kazarian attends computer summit
Local technology professional Kelly Kazarian of Kelly's Komputers recently attended Reach Beyond Summit 2000 in Austin, Texas.
Hosted by handtech.com, the annual event unites independent technology professionals, industry experts and product vendors for a weekend of knowledge sharing, technology training, and one-of-a-kind business-building solutions.
Kazarian is just one of thousands of independent handtech. com technology consultants located throughout the United States, emphasizing personalized attention and customer service. Technology consultants provide technology resources previously unavailable to the "needs-help" majority of small businesses and consumers.
During the Summit, technology consultants from around the country shared successful business strategies, explored ways to better service the needs of their customers and received specialized training in high-end technology products and services.
"I am excited about the tools and strategies I took away from handtech.com's Summit 2000. I feel we are able to better satisfy the specific product and service demands of small business customers," she said. "The services handtech.com provides allow my business to effectively compete with superstores and direct sellers by providing a level of personalized technology assistance usually enjoyed only by corporate giants
Kelly's Komputers, powered by handtech.com offers a full-line of technology products and services, which include: hardware; software and peripherals, system and network set-up and training; prepurchase consultations; online Internet and computer language training.
To learn about the latest technology available in the Rim country, call Kazarian at 474 474-4388.