Food News

Advice From Ten Denver Chefs on Opening a Restaurant

Elise Wiggins opened her first restaurant, Cattivella, this past summer.
Elise Wiggins opened her first restaurant, Cattivella, this past summer. Jennifer Koskinen
We recently talked to five new restaurant owners on the pitfalls and lessons-learned of opening their own eateries. Here they — and a few other chefs who've piloted kitchens in their opening days — give advice for others who are thinking about going it solo.
click to enlarge Annette opened this spring at the Stanley Marketplace. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Annette opened this spring at the Stanley Marketplace.
Danielle Lirette
1. “Get everything in writing. You’re working with so many types of people, from landlords to engineers to contractors. If you forget to get it in writing, it will come back to bite you.”
Caroline Glover, Annette

click to enlarge The staff at Elise Wiggins's Cattivella handle a wide range of cooking techniques. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
The staff at Elise Wiggins's Cattivella handle a wide range of cooking techniques.
Danielle Lirette
2. “If I want to do a second restaurant, I’d make sure my team is really committed. I’d have them sign a commitment letter. If they were on the fence, that would weed them out, and I’d be better prepared.”
Elise Wiggins, Cattivella

click to enlarge Regan and Louie Colburn started Ohana as a walk-up lunch window before moving to their current location. - LAURA SHUNK
Regan and Louie Colburn started Ohana as a walk-up lunch window before moving to their current location.
Laura Shunk
3. “Hire slow and fire fast. Those are not my own words. You’re compromised by retaining employees who don’t make the cut. With the personnel shortage, you’re inclined to accommodate employees much more — but if you’re resisting, you’re in for a reality check.”
Louie Colburn, Ohana Island Kitchen

click to enlarge Ryan Taylor has taken the reins at Hickory & Ash. - CHAD CHISOLM WITH CUSTOM CREATIONS
Ryan Taylor has taken the reins at Hickory & Ash.
Chad Chisolm with Custom Creations
4. “The biggest challenge is staffing. There are 13,000 unfilled line-cook positions in Colorado. It’s so hard to find staff. It’s hard to find people who want to cook.”
Ryan Taylor, Hickory & Ash


click to enlarge Alex Figura making bread at Dio Mio. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Alex Figura making bread at Dio Mio.
Danielle Lirette
5. “If we were going to do construction ourselves again, I’d prefer to do it on a smaller model — something with a smaller footprint and base infrastructure rather than renovate a whole new space that was never a restaurant. If some of that stuff was in place, it’d be a lot easier.”
Alex Figura, Dio Mio

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