How Olive & Finch predicted the transformation of Parallel 17 into P17
When Olive & Finchopened in December, the French café-inspired eatery came as a surprise to fans of chef Mary Nguyen's previous restaurants, Parallel Seventeen and Street Kitchen Asian Bistro. At Olive & Finch, she traded pho for prosciutto, black bean stir fries for breakfast burritos, and tuna rolls for tartines.
As it turned out, Olive & Finch -- which I review this week -- wasn't an outlier, but a trendsetter.
Chef/owner Mary Nguyen at Olive & Finch, her French-inspired cafe.
Last month Nguyen transformed Parallel Seventeen into P17, a neighborhood bistro that, like Olive & Finch, grew out of Nguyen's travels in Europe. "It seems like there are so many more options to go out [in Europe] that are fresh, healthy, great and inexpensive," says Nguyen. "Whenever I come back to Denver, it's been disheartening."
With P17, she's trying to create middle ground between upscale and fast-food options, a place "where you could go on a Tuesday and get great roast chicken or pappardelle pasta," she explains. To her, the biggest difference between P17 and Olive & Finch -- other than the fact that Olive & Finch is fast-casual -- is that Olive & Finch is "more French- inspired, and P17 is more European-inspired."
Usually when a restaurant undergoes such a radical transformation, it resurfaces with a new name to alert guests to the difference. Last summer, for example, Mark Fischer highlighted his new concept that took over the Phat Thai space by naming it Harman's eat & drink. True, the name did change at P17, but not much: P17 was what everyone called Parallel Seventeen, anyway.
Everyone, it seems, except Nguyen, who says that even though people may have called it that, to her the restaurant was always Parallel Seventeen. "The change from Parallel Seventeen to P17, for me, it was a big change," she adds.
Still, I'll bet more than a few guests have walked in to this Uptown spot, only to be surprised by the new menu. Would it have been helpful to give it a new name as well as a new concept? Or does the echo of the original Parallel Seventeen name evoke brand loyalty too strong to lose?
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