Denver Restaurant Week: Should it really be one week? Two weeks? Or two one-week events?

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The first thing you need to know about Denver Restaurant Week is that it's the largest event of its type in the country, with the most restaurants participating and the most meals served. The second thing you need to know is that it's not an actual week. When the economy took a nosedive, the 2009 version was stretched from one week at the end of February to two weeks that spilled into March, and that was the schedule again this year.
But those two weeks can be grueling both for restaurant workers who have to handle the crush -- and diners who have to somehow stuff in two weeks of meal deals.

Last Thursday, Visit Denver, the city's convention and visitors bureau that organizes Denver Restaurant Week, hosted a meeting with dozens of restaurateurs to consider different schedule options. The only people who were missing? Diners.

Should DRW go back to an actual week? Should it be trimmed to ten days, including two weekends? Or trimmed to ten days, with just one weekend? Or should the two weeks be divided? One could be at the end of February, the other in August, another traditionally slow time for restaurants.

There was lots of discussion at the meeting -- but no real consensus, beyond this: "They like two weeks, without a doubt, whether consecutive or at two different times," says Visit Denver's Deborah Park.

"We love Denver Restaurant Week," says Stephanie Bonin, who owns Duo with her husband, Keith Arnold, and also Olivea with Arnold, John Broening and
Yasmin Lozada-Hissom. "We've supported the idea of splitting it. If the goal is to spotlight the city's restaurants, you get to spotlight in them different ways...and experience that energy for two different weeks."

Although the two consecutive weeks can be tough on staffs, Duo and Olivea work hard to alleviate that, offering such amenities as massages for line cooks. "People talk about the fatigue of chefs," Bonin notes, "but customers are always the people who are our number one goal."

"The restaurants that are successful with it work really hard, and make it something special," says Frank Bonanno, whose restaurants all participate, even though they range from Mizuna -- where the normal tab for two is four times the $52.80 of Denver Restaurant Week price -- to Osteria Marco, whose average price point is about that of DRW. No matter what format Visit Denver decides for 2012, Bonanno's group will be back. "I love doing it," Bonanno says. "I love being a part of it."

Visit Denver doesn't have a deadline for making a decision on 2012's schedule, Park says -- which means there's time for consumers to dish their own ideas about Denver Restaurant Week. Is two consecutive weeks of dining deals just too much of a good thing? Would a second week in August (and that's August 2012, not 2011) be appealing? Or is it easier to just plan a marathon of munching?

"Let's talk to the diners," says Bonanno. "That's who this is for."

So here's your chance. Post your thoughts on Denver Restaurant Week below, and we'll serve them up to Visit Denver. "We'd be interested to know what people think," promises Park.

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38 comments
Ellen W
Ellen W

Two separate weeks! That would allow for more meals total, because both the cost and the calories are spread out. Also, late August would be a great time for tourists, or for parents to do a date night with kids back in school.

Darkstarfighter25
Darkstarfighter25

I participate in restaurant week on both sides of the line. I'm a chef and I try to go out to as many restaurants I couldn't afford otherwise. I don't usually spend very much money on eating out, since it's so easy for me to make it myself, so I don't put that much money in the budget for it. But if restaurant fortnight was split up, I could save up more money to check out what other chefs are doing, and I would be much happier at work.  Restaurant Fortnight kills... worst experience of my career so far.

Lena
Lena

I love the idea of keeping it two separate weeks. It's an easier workload on the staff, and easier on the wallet for us consumers.

Aceranchero
Aceranchero

Two weeks, split.

It's wearisome to have to wade through $52.80 menus on those evenings when you just want to go out to one of your favorite places for your favorite dishes that my not be offered during the two week run. 

As noted elsewhere, it's equally wearisome of the restaurant staffs to make the same few things repeatedly for that term. 

Restaurants noted for seasonal and local fare should have better options with a second week added near the end of summer or early autumn. 

And please, can we lighten on on the goat cheese and sweet potato offerings next year? Thanks.

Stephanie Jordan
Stephanie Jordan

I would say two weeks in two different months.  Gives diners more options to check out different restaurants without having to cram it all together.  Doing one week in August would also be a good time for parents to get out for a date night since the kids are back in school.  If the ten-day option is chosen I would say absolutely not two weekends.  Weekends are already busier than the weekday, so if you add in the extra people coming specifically for DRW, it'll make it even harder on the staff.  Or maybe start it on a Sunday if two weekends are the decided option.  Sundays are typically slower nights anyway, so people still have that weekend option but it's not adding to the Friday and Saturday night rushes.

foodguy
foodguy

Definitely go with the two weeks, not sure about splitting them up because of all the other activities that we have going on throughout the year, might not be the same the second week around if split up. 

fartoost
fartoost

Two split weeks would be the way to go. Different ingredients available, thus different menus.

Gmcphome
Gmcphome

Here is a thought. 10 days in February, covering 2 weekends AND 10 days in August, again covering 2 weekends. This way the diners can experience both the Summer and Winter menus.

Jongreschler
Jongreschler

It is a serious grind for front and back of house and I'd like to see it split--but that's just me being selfish.  In this economy, in any really, I want to hear what the public wants and follow suit.  I'd like Feb and August if I had my druthers...

Jon M
Jon M

Two weeks at separate times of the year seems like a great opportunity to expose diners to a greater variety of dishes if the restaurant is able to utilize seasonal produce.  

Melodie
Melodie

My family and I look forward to Restaurant Week each year.  I'd be a strong advocate for splitting the weeks into two--one in the winter and one in the summer.  Having one on the summer will give restaurant goers an opportunity to venture to restaurants with great patios and eat seasonal produce/items not readily available in the winter!  Two Weeks Please!!!

Lhatting
Lhatting

Love restaurant week! I'd split up the 2 weeks and do one in the Spring and another in the Summer/Fall. Either way...I can't wait to support the restaurants.

Ken
Ken

Go two separate weeks. Then we could experience their seasonal menus.

Mantonat
Mantonat

I'm guessing the whole concept is going to have to change very soon. With food costs going up and up, diners are going to get less and less for $52.80. I'm fine with one week, a slightly higher price, and a continued emphasis on quality rather than volume. Maybe they could stagger the participation so that it's spread out over 2 weeks but the restaurants would only commit to one week each.

JDP
JDP

Restaurant "WEEK" will lose its luster if it happens more than once per year.  Taking it from weekend thru the next weekend (10 days) is enough.  In many cases where the owners see this as a profit-taking opportunity rather than a promotion, the quality of both the food and the table service slips noticeably.  It does, however, give diners access to some places they ordinarily might not go, and will most likely return if they have a good experience.  That's the positive.  The danger of having this type of event more than once per year is that consumers will defer going out until the promo weeks return, and there will be a negative revenue impact overall.  You can have too much of a good thing and it will no longer be special.  Don't ruin it!

Jeff
Jeff

I definitely think that two split weeks at different times of the year is the way to go.

Jdwdbw
Jdwdbw

I agree with the 2 split weeks concept: better for the restaurants and better for my budget and free time.  I would choose those dates that are best for the restaurants as you indicated:  Feb. and August.  As a personal aside, please encourage all participating restaurants to include a vegetarian selection.

John Imbergamo
John Imbergamo

Having sat in that meeting, I would say that there was definitely a consensus in the room with nearly all restaurateurs in attendance asking Visit Denver to split the event into two separate weeks. I think we're all interested in hearing what diners have to say. 

cdthomas
cdthomas

Doesn't Harvest Week feature the same kind of promotional oomph? Why not use that week as the extension?

Simon
Simon

I say do it for a month! We never have time to hit up all the restaurants we want to try in the 1-2 week period

MMK
MMK

I like the idea of splitting it...I think I'd go to more restaurants during restaurant weeks if I could spread the cost around a little more!

Carol
Carol

Two weeks -- but split them up -- choose another slow month -- I'll get slammed for this but WHY??  always in the middle of Lent??

Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce

Denver Restaurant Week is great for business.  As far as the "fatigued staff", what if they worked in New Orleans or another tourist destination where they are busy all the time.I thought the goal was to be busy?  Boo F-ing Hoo!

Munchies!!!
Munchies!!!

Although Restaurant Week is pretty fun to take part in, many places try to pass off their cheaper items as being part of the special.  In other words, you might be duped into dropping more money for things that are available for less outside of Restaurant Week.  Make sure you check out the menu and the prices a month or two in advance.

Camkryz1
Camkryz1

One week is just not enough. I think trying two split weeks is a good idea.

Sal
Sal

I think its great for Denver and its diners! I think it should be 2 weeks, but it should be split. From talking to lots of restaurant people, it puts a big strain on the staff and management. Most everyone loves the promotion but 2 weeks in a row is tough. Do the 2nd week in October or another month that may need a boost.

GFTW
GFTW

Totally agree.

-WFK-
-WFK-

Mantonat, i often agree with your posts, as i do with this one. Being in the industry, i can honestly say that it is very hard working for 2 weeks straight doing the same thing over and over and over with very little change. Many restaurants offer weak menus that are very boring but justify the "deal" with high end menu items... i like the idea of 2 weeks but with staggered participation from week to week and an emphasis on quality over quantity. Restaurant owners will tell you that it is the busiest 2 weeks of the year, and even with the lower check average, it is also the most profitable... and i think there are enough diners in our fair city to warrant the 2 weeks. 

Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce

Simon,You are right, it should be restaurant year, let us all be busy and make all of our guests happy, also we should eliminate mandatory gratuity!! 

Brian Melton
Brian Melton

Wow...you obviously don't work in the business. During DRW(s) we get so busy that by the second week of the ordeal the staff is tired from working 14 days straight, often double shifts. Whatever you do Mr. Dead Comedian, imagine doing that for 15 to 16 hours a day for two weeks, on your feet. Even in New Orleans or another "tourist" spot...because yeah, Denver never gets tourists...waiters get a breather.

All we're asking for is a split. Not shortening anything, not skipping days...just two separate weeks so we don't fall over and so YELP reviews don't say, "I did go to Restaurant X during Restaurant Week..."

 

Jonny G
Jonny G

And go to the restaurants outside of RW too!  Support year round!

Claire
Claire

Taking in the Front Range and not just the immediate metro area, locals actually have more than two weeks. First Bite Boulder is in November.Great Plates in Fort Collins in March is also two weeks. The first-ever Pikes Peak Restaurant Week launched  in Colorado Springs this past March as well. These outliers provide additional incentive to sample restaurants outside of our immediate neighborhoods.

Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce

Hey Brian, I have been in the biz my whole life, what short sighted employees like you fail to recognize is that we are there  for our guests, not the comfort of our staff...as far as splitting, that may be a good idea on some level that may need some investigation, but, as one poster put, lets not dilute the brand, capiche?...by the way Denver is a tourist spot compred to NOLA like Cleveland is compared to NYC...also Lenny is dead in body only, his sarcasm lives on in the living...got that bed wetter?  Long Live Antoines in NOLA, 14 dining rooms, no sections,  running from open to close, every day was restaurant week, hike up your skirt, put a band aid on it and make some money

inebriatedgentleman
inebriatedgentleman

Lenny those who come to restaurant week only come back again during the following years restaurant week and I've been through all of them here in denver,

inebriatedgentleman
inebriatedgentleman

Works 16 hour days every week, quit taking your bad career choices out on everyone else Mr. Melton is a bad ass bartender who slangs some great cocktails

Come on people
Come on people

Come on, let's not act like high schoolers.  I am not in the business but I see the impact on the staff.  It's exhausting being on your feet and being "on" for the public who can really be a bunch of a-holes sometimes.  You also get people who might not normally go out and they expect the world and don't want to pay for it.  I try to avoid restaurants during RW because I don't need anymore amateur hours-I like being out on a night when people know how to dine.  Also you have owners who go out of their way for a good tasting menu while others clearly think romaine salad is an acceptable course.  I think one week is good but if it must be two weeks they should be separate.  I think a spring and a fall week would be great for Denver.  

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