The newest Lambert's Cafe is a group effort with employees pitching in on the construction and set up over the past three months on the new 23,000-square-foot restaurant.
When Barbara Razer says she does "a little bit of everything" at Lambert's Cafe, she means it. She is a waitress, a cashier and just a week before the move, Razer was folding shirts and filling the shelves in the restaurant's new gift shop.
The same day Razer was emptying boxes of T-shirts, owner Scott Lambert was wielding a hammer inside the new building along with the cafe's general manager Jerry Johnson. Also on site were manager Mike Church and Jody Storm, construction foreman.
Johnson explained the new location, which he estimated is 50 percent larger than their old site, will enable Lambert's to seat about 450 to 500 patrons at a time. The 134- by 164-foot building includes an expanded gift shop, larger kitchen, offices and storage space.
Workers poured about 5 acres of concrete at the site. This will mean more parking with areas designated for buses, cars and even motorcycles.
The kitchen takes up approximately 12,000 square feet in the new building. A third serving line was added along with state-of-the-art equipment while the freezer and cooler space was doubled.
The increase in kitchen space, Lambert explained, will mean less wait for patrons. Meals may well arrive in about the time it takes to consume a "throwed" roll.
Even the number of employees is going up. A week before the opening some two dozen new staff members were in training, bringing the number of employees at Lambert's Cafe to 180, according to Lambert.
As for the interior, what is new is actually old. "Another reason we expanded was to make room for more license plates," Lambert joked, pointing to the wall behind him. He said the plates are from all 50 states with some dating back to 1939.
The larger building enabled workers to bring some items from out of storage for decorations while others, including a mural, once graced the former building before the move.
The new Lambert's will have a new mural, too. Artist Lorenzo Green perched on scaffolding above the booths painting a wall, working to complete the picture well before opening day.
Johnson estimated it took about two weeks simply to complete the interior decoration.
"We took a lot of stuff off the Lambert's farm. Stuff they have had for years. A lot of the pictures came from our customers and their families," said Johnson.
While it sounds like a lot of change, the men insist it is still "the same ol' Lambert's. It is the same atmosphere as down the road," said Johnson.
"Or even better," added Storm. "Friendly people and good food. It's a family atmosphere where you can bring your kids and make lots of noise."
"And we want this to be the centerpiece of the three restaurants since this is our hometown," said Lambert, referring to the Lambert's Cafes located in Foley, Ala., and Ozark.
The smaller Lambert's location in Sikeston averaged 750,000 customers a year and Lambert fully expects this number to grow with the new location. For local residents, who want to avoid the crowd of tourists, he suggested enjoying a meal Monday through Thursday.
"Those times are pretty mild," offered Lambert.
"But some like the atmosphere when we are busy," added Johnson. "Sometimes things get pretty wide open."
Lambert's is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
A grand opening is being planned for later this summer.