Outside the restaurant, hardly a parking space could be found. Inside, almost every seat was spoken for.
But the restaurant wasn't Four Seasons on a Friday night. It was McDonald's in Craig on a Saturday morning.
The decades-old burger joint recently completed a complete remodel. Earlier versions of the restaurant had been designed with strict functionality in mind. But all the stainless steel and hard red and yellow plastic was removed during the remodeling. The straight-back chairs were replaced by tall stools and leather couches, sitting in front of back to back fireplaces in the center of the dining area.
The result feels more like a Starbucks coffee house than a fast food joint.
"We wanted a more comfortable atmosphere, where people could enjoy their meals," said franchise owner Chris Nichols.
The remodeling has been a trend in McDonald's restaurants across the country. Reuben Reyes, McDonald's field service manager, said most major cities, including Denver, Colorado Springs and Cheyenne, Wyo., were already remodeled.
Nichols didn't want to name an exact dollar amount, but he did say the remodeling came at "a considerable expense" of several hundred thousand dollars.
"We want to make the restaurant more appealing to the customer, and more contemporary," Reyes said.
The exterior of the building was renovated first. Then the dining room was expanded, a second drive-thru was added, Playland was enlarged, and a dessert bar, selling Breyers ice cream and Dippin' Dots, was added to the serving area. Water cascades down the McDonald's sign inside.
"It's really pretty," Tonja Reed said, as her kids frolicked in Playland. "I like the fireplace."
Even the employees who labor in the kitchen like the new place.
"I love it," Zach Vorhies said. "It's a lot nicer and a lot easier to clean."
The restaurant had been open for business for one week at the time of the grand reopening.
The atmosphere at the reopening was festive. Ronald McDonald himself was on hand, signing autographs in his fat yellow suit and red floppy shoes. Rick Allen, KRAI station manager, was broadcasting live, giving away games, collecting food for the KRAI food drive, and supporting the Substance Abuse Prevention Program (SAPP) and Grand Futures all-you-can-eat pancake fundraiser. SAPP and Grand Futures are youth programs that encourage kids to explore alternatives to drug and alcohol use.
And maybe that's the other reason why so many people traveled to McDonald's that morning. For the past few weeks, first- through sixth-grade students have been selling $3 tickets for all-you-can eat-pancake breakfasts at McDonald's.
SAPP board members, elementary school principals, Craig Police officers and Moffat County Sheriff's deputies came in early to flip flapjacks for the fund-raiser. Nichols donated all the food to SAPP. Becky Otis of the Craig Police Department estimated that SAPP raised about $3,200.
SAPP will host another breakfast at McDonald's from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. next Saturday. Tickets will be on sale at McDonald's.
SAPP regularly sponsors alcohol and drug awareness and education events with the Recreational Afterschool Doorway and the DARE program, and hosts alternatives to drinking parties, such as after prom.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 213 or by e-mail at email@example.com.