Janesville’s newest sit-down restaurant adds another buffet option for local and traveling diners on the restaurant-heavy north side.
But “another buffet” isn’t how the Golden Corral’s owner describes his 290-seat franchise, located just off the interchange at Interstate 90/39 and Highway 14.
Chris Gomes said the new restaurant at 3111 Wellington Place underwent a monthslong, multimillion-dollar overhaul to the former Quaker Steak and Lube that closed abruptly in June 2018.
When the Golden Corral opens Monday, it’ll be the first of its kind: a prototype design the 500-restaurant chain is unveiling in Janesville, Gomes said.
This location is the only Golden Corral to have an open-air, stone-paved dining patio on the side of the building. In the dining room, the buffet is sleek and modern with an ambiance designed to appeal to business-casual diners with softer, more “intimate” lighting, Gomes said.
It’s also among the first Golden Corrals with a fireplace.
Drinks are served at the table, and there’s a separate 50-seat banquet room for private events. And, yes, like other Golden Corral locations, guests can watch at an open grilling station as a chef grills their choice of steak to order.
Gomes wouldn’t discuss the price he paid for a full face-lift, fireplace and new-era ambiance to the former Quaker Steak and Lube. But city construction permit applications filed last year pegged the restaurant conversion at more than $1.5 million.
Gomes said the project’s ultimate cost was “significantly higher” than earlier estimates.
A Boston native, Gomes said the prototype is being introduced in Janesville as part of a plan to appeal to a demographic that tends to avoid buffet restaurants.
“This new casual-theme look, as opposed to a more cafeteria-style buffet, is purposeful,” he said. “It’s more geared toward ‘Mom.’ The average male would come into an older Golden Corral and want to know how much ribs and chicken they can possibly eat. But Mom is coming in with the whole family. She’s looking for a salad. She’s looking for service and softer, intimate lighting.”
Gomes hopes that will set the new Golden Corral apart from other buffet or steak restaurants along Highway 14, including Texas Roadhouse and Hometown Buffet.
Unlike those chains, Golden Corral includes a house-cut and marinated steak cooked to order with a full buffet. Gomes said the price is comparable to a meal at either competitor.
Gomes said Golden Corral will open over the weekend with a grand opening Monday. The restaurant, which is nestled next to two hotels, also will be the first Golden Corral to have a drive-thru for takeout orders.
Despite hefty competition from an ever-growing bevy of chain restaurants on Highway 14 and I-90/39, Gomes said he believes there’s room for new players.
“We feel great with this site right off the Interstate. It’s the main corridor between Maine and Washington in the northern part of the country,” he said. “We just think we’re gonna be massive successful here.”