From American pie to Sushi, it seems like every type of food, from every corner of the world is available in Sioux Falls. But, some worry the expanding number of choices in the city could eventually bust the currently booming business.
Nearly everywhere you look in Sioux Falls, there's someone trying to serve you food. So much so, some stretches of town seem like a heaping buffett table, just ready for you to belly up. The options are nearly endless, with nearly 600 restaurants open across the city.
One of those is Bob's Café, a small and humble diner dating back to 1944. When its colorful sign was installed in 1956, it played an important role in early KELOLAND aviation.
Bob’s Café manager Ben Weiland explains, "For a while, the sign was a lighted fixed point for the planes coming into town, they'd line up on the Bob's sign which was on the outskirts of town and they'd know they'd be coming into the airport to make their landing.”
A lot has changed since then, the city now surrounds the cafe, and the old gravel road is five lanes wide. There's also more competition in the restaurant market.
"Business is as good, or better than it’s ever been,” says Weiland.
But to grab those customers, Bob's café manager Ben Weiland says he has to think outside of the eleven seat café. "I see the entire city of Sioux Falls as our dining room. And seeing it that way gives me a vision of feeding as many people as I can feed." That means Weiland can often be found catering large parties... And it even gave him the idea of chicken delivery.
Weiland says, "It has been an uphill struggle to let people know that we'll deliver a chicken dinner to them just like a pizza shop will deliver a pizza to them. And it catches on a little more each year."
But each year, more competition comes to town. While it may add to the fight for customers dollars, it's business development those at the Sioux Falls area chamber of commerce are glad to see.
Evan Nolte of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce says "Eating out in Sioux Falls is a popular past time and it's definitely entertainment. The level has just kept increasing and there are so many different types of restaurants that we offer."
Nolte says the number of restaurants in Sioux Falls is a sign of the city's growing economy. And as long as that stays strong, so will the businesses.
"The fact that we've had very sound economic grown with major employers and also small businesses that are starting up and also adding employees as they grow. It takes all of that to make this supportable," says Nolte.
But naturally, not every restaurant is going to survive. An example of that is a former TGI Friday's locations which closed earlier this year. The managers said they simply didn't do enough business to keep the doors open.
Weiland says, "I think that those who are doing things right are enjoying getting more business. And those who are doing things wrong don't get the opportunity to do it again."
Which means those in the food business can't relax if they want to keep the food on the table at work - and at home.
"Just because Bob's has been here for 57 years doesn't mean it's going to last the next two months, two years or the next 30 years. We have to earn the business every day," says Weiland.
Weiland knows you can't please everyone, he just hopes the service at Bob's satisfies enough people to keep this family run operation in competition with the others across town.
Interesting enough, Bob's Cafe may have also played a part in starting the tradition of looping in Sioux Falls. As the story goes, teenagers would drive between Bob's and two other restaurants. Their path later became the loop.