Denver Restaurant Week officially launches today, but many of the participating eateries have devoted weeks—sometimes even months—to behind-the-scenes preparation.
Why? The 10-day event, which is now in its 12th year, brings in a lot of business. “We treat every day of Restaurant Week like Valentine’s Day or New Years Eve,” says Andrea Frizzi, chef-owner of Il Posto in Uptown. “But I love it, because we actually make tons of money.”
While many Denver restaurateurs share Frizzi’s love for the rush, it still brings unique challenges. With the cost for dinner clocking in at just $30 per person, crafting menus that keep the restaurant’s revenue high while meeting customer expectations at the same time is no easy task. The event was originally designed as a way to boost Denver’s dining scene, not only in terms of public perception, but also by providing a financial boost to restaurants during a slow season. Ultimately, restaurateurs hope to see new customers come in during restaurant week—and return again and again in the months to come.
Not only is Restaurant Week a boon for local eateries, it also affects the companies that supply them, including Tundra Restaurant Supply. Tundra’s president Wayne LaJoie compares the event to 10 consecutive days and nights of a Saturday night rush. LaJoie estimates that (on average) each restaurant seats about 50 people per table turn (industry lingo that indicates the number of times a table is used, or turned over, per evening). By LaJoie’s numbers, restaurants will do about three turns per night, and with 10 nights total, that means each restaurant will serve about 337,500 meals during restaurant week. As for Tundra, LaJoie says that the company sees a sharp uptick in business.
Some of this year’s participating restaurants have been around the block a time or two, while others are gearing up for their very first experience. We asked Restaurant Week veteran Stephanie Bonin of Highland’s Duo Restaurant about her approach. Bonin said that Duo has been involved in the event since it opened in 2005, and over the years, she’s honed in her RW strategy. “We definitely ran out of food the first year,” Bonin says. Since then, Duo has given a lot of consideration to creating a manageable menu for the event. “What can the small kitchen handle? What embodies a comprehensive Duo experience? How can we prime the staff for this time of extreme repetition? Overall, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” Bonin says that Duo expects about a 25-percent increase in business, although some nights will result in a triple increase.
On the other hand, the almost-one-year-old Baur’s Restaurant and Listening Lounge is preparing for its first RW. Chef-owner Dory Ford recalls that he spent last year’s Restaurant Week enjoying dinner at Table 6. Around that time, he signed the lease for the downtown space that would become Baur’s. He, too, has put time into planning the menu, attempting to strike a balance between dishes that appeal to the regulars and the new customers. For the upcoming days, he’s hiring extra staff and placing more orders for meat and fresh produce. Like Bonin, Ford expects a consistent 25-percent increase in business.
Although neither Duo nor Baur’s can fully anticipate the wave of diners in numbers, it’s safe to say that it’s going to be a very busy week at dining establishments all over the Mile High City. To all of the 200-some area eateries participating this year: good luck.
Duo Restaurant, 2413 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-4141
Baur’s Restaurant and Listening Lounge, 1512 Curtis St., 303-615-4000