Runza – a Nebraska original


I was first introduced to Runza as a kid. In a previous post – Why I Blame my Dad ,  I mentioned how we moved every couple of years. When we came home to visit, Runza was one of the “must” stops we had to make, so my dad could enjoy some native Nebraska food.

We moved to Nebraska during my eighth grade year in school. I will not say what year that was (a lady has some pride concerning her age – LOL).

During our visits, Runza was always a treat we kids looked forward to. Those crisp, crinkly fries and homemade onion rings were icing on the cake in addition to some of my main favorites. Runza fries and rings

I would usually get either the cheese Runza or the mushroom Swiss Runza. My husband Tim would never touch the latter. He’s not a fan of fungus, he would say.

To this day, I am torn about what to get when we go to Runza. I usually prefer the cheese Runza, but the burgers are sooooo delicious. Next to my dad’s grilled burgers, I think Runza has the next best burgers. They are handmade daily.

What the heck is a Runza?

It’s a bread dough made from scratch and stuffed full of ground beef, onions, cabbage, and secret spices—and then baked fresh and served hot. They have 3 standard flavors that are always available of these tasty treats –  regular, cheese and mushroom and Swiss. Unfortunately, I could not get Becky Perrett, Director of Marketing, to divulge the secret spices.


Runza dates back to Russia. Russians made this sandwich. A group eventually migrated to Germany, where the sandwich was introduced. It eventually made its way to the American Midwest via Russian-German immigrants.

Runza is very popular in Nebraska. They are sold at each home football game. On a cold day, they serve as hand-warmers at Husker football games. Then as a filling meal.

As Nebraska fans travel to football bowl sites in the postseason, Runza  does its best to be there, too. Sometimes due to the shortened turnaround time, as well as restrictions by the hosting locations, they are not able to follow the Huskers. However, they make every attempt to serve hot Runzas to their fans at the bowl games.

There are currently 80 locations in the region – Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado and Kansas. Of the total, a little more than half are corporate owned.


Runza leaders believe in slow, consistent growth. They target opening 2-3 new stores per year. The franchisee process is challenging by design. They want to ensure that the quality of food and service is matched at every store. This is primarily due to the amount of homemade products that they offer.

Runza staff members start their days early – baking the dough, and prepping fresh ingredients by hand. This includes hand slicing onions for burgers and onion rings, shredding lettuce, and  stirring pots of chili.

Chili and cinnamon rolls are very popular during colder months. The chili is as good as homemade (don’t tell your mom that, though). Runza chili and cinnamon rolls

Runza has a winter promotion based on the temperature of the day. Runzas cost the temperature at 6 a.m. local on “Temperature Tuesdays” during a six-week run in January and February. So, if it is 20 degrees, a regular Runza would be 20 cents, along with the purchase of medium drink and fries. If the temp is zero or below, the Runza is free. Depending on the weather pattern that particular year, this can make for really cheap meals. This promotion is always a big hit for them. In a couple of different offices I have worked in, on Tuesdays, there might be a few people that would give one person money to go ahead and pick up Runza meals for the crew.

Runza is so popular, when Nebraskans move away, they crave it. Some people will do anything to get a Runza. They are called “Runzatics.”

I remember reading about one person who worked for an airline in Milwaukee, WI. On an off-day, they grabbed a flight to Omaha, just to have a Runza.

A sister-in-law who lives in Kansas City would drive to southeast Nebraska on occasion for a Runza.

The term “Runzatic” became an officially trademarked word in 2009. You can read about other Runzatics on the company’s website –

Becky  said she has a built-in conversation starter when she mentions that she works for Runza. She frequently will get people to tell her their Runzatic stories.


Runza food2