Denver Restaurant Week, presented by Visit Denver, launches its thirteenth year with ten days of discounted dinners at restaurants across the metro area from February 24 through March 5. To help you plan your dinner outings, Visit Denver is rolling out more than 150 Restaurant Week menus today at noon on the Denver Restaurant Week website.
The annual celebration of the city's restaurants has evolved over the years to keep pace with the eating habits of Denver diners. Over the first several years, menu choices were offered for $52.80 for two (or $26.40 per person), but the price was eventually raised to $30 per person, where it stayed until this year. For 2017, the cost of dinner has been divided into three price points: $25, $35 and $45.
Justin Bressler, vice president of marketing for the organization, says the new price tiers will allow more inexpensive restaurants to participate. So far, about fifty eateries have registered at the $25 price point, including Bones, Euclid Hall, Hop Doddy Burger Bar, Blue Moon Brewing Company, Ace Eat Serve and Farmer Girl Community Bistro in Lyons.
Bressler has worked for Visit Denver since 2008 and has seen many changes to both Restaurant Week and Denver itself. "Restaurant Week has really paralleled the growth — I'd say the explosion — of the restaurant scene in Denver," he notes, pointing out that about seventy restaurants participated in Restaurant Week's first year, while this year the total is expected to top out at close to 275 (compare that to 231 total in 2016).
The length of the event has also changed since the earlier years, when Restaurant Week was actually seven days. In 2009, it was extended to two weeks, and in 2014, those two weeks were split between February and August. But now it's set at ten days at the end of winter, which allows restaurants to bring in additional customers during a traditionally slow time of year while not overburdening staff.
Chefs gather at Coohills for a culinary round table on the state of Denver's dining scene before last year's Restaurant Week.
Visit Denver conducts a survey of restaurants every year after the final discount meal is served; Bressler says that last year's survey indicated that 324,000 meals had been served at $30 each, totaling some $9.7 million in sales. "Many diners choose to grow their meals, so that's a conservative number," he adds.
That's just a drop in the bucket compared to the growth in restaurant business that Denver has seen in recent years. Bressler points out that in 2015 (the most recent year for which figures were available), visitors spent more than $1 billion on food and beverages.
During Restaurant Week, there's usually an uptick in visits to the Visit Denver website from people outside the metro area, which means that Restaurant Week is pulling diners in from around the state along with locals.
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All that means you'd better hurry and make reservations now. Check the Visit Denver website at noon to find a menu and price point that appeals to you, or call your favorite restaurants to see if they're participating.
Restaurant Week participating chefs gather for a press conference before the big event in 2015.