Word of Mouth

Denver Restaurant Week splits into two weeks in 2014

Everyone agrees that Denver Restaurant Week has been a delicious deal for the city, but there were a few things about it that didn't make sense. For starters, Denver Restaurant Week hasn't been a week-long for years; when the economy tanked in late 2008, it was extended to two weeks, a span that never shrank back as the economy grew (even though restaurants were always free to extend the deal as long as they wanted). Restaurateurs complained that their staff was exhausted by the two-week stretch; diners complained that their stomachs and wallets had been stretched, too. And then there was the original price of $52.80 for a multi-course meal for two, which became increasingly difficult for many restaurants to handle. In response to those issues, Visit Denver, which sponsors DRW, has just announced some changes to the program for its tenth anniversary year.

See also: Denver Restaurant Week whiners suck!

For starters, there will be two Denver Restaurant Weeks -- actual weeks -- with a seven-day deal in February, and another seven-day deal in August. And the price will be increased to $30 a person.

Keep reading for the rest of the announcement:

Denver, Co. - September 24, 2013 - For its 10th anniversary in 2014, VISIT DENVER's Denver Restaurant Week (DRW) will be twice as exciting with both a winter and summer version. The traditional winter DRW will be held from Feb. 22-28, 2014, and next year the popular dining event will be supplemented with another full week of summer dining specials from Aug. 23-29, 2014. Both 2014 Denver Restaurant Weeks will be presented by Lexus.

Another change will be a slight price increase (the first in nine years), with the price for a multi-course dinner during DRW rising from $52.80 for two to a new $30 per person in 2014.

"A summer version of the event offers restaurants a lot of interesting serving and meal options," said Richard Scharf, president & CEO of VISIT DENVER, which created and organizes DRW. "Restaurants will be able to offer outdoor dining and feature fresh Colorado produce. We anticipate that summer menus will be very different than the winter ones, and they will be able to showcase the farm-to-fork movement that is so popular in the state," Scharf said.

Each of the Denver Restaurant Weeks in 2014 will be seven days, returning to the format DRW launched in 2005, and a departure from recent years where DRW has been 14 days in one stretch. "We've discovered that 14 continuous days of business is just too much of a strain, both for chefs and wait staffs," Scharf said. He said that restaurants felt that it was more difficult to maintain the quality of the dining experience for that length of time, considering the volume of people who dine out during DRW. In 2013, a record 355 participating restaurants served 436,650 meals.

Scharf noted that 14 days seemed to result in "diner burnout" as well, with the number of reservations decreasing in the second week, while the number of "no shows" greatly increased. "Apparently people's eyes are bigger than their stomachs, and as we got into the second week, the participating restaurants saw a lot of people either cancel their reservations or simply not show up," Scharf said.

With the new system, Scharf said, restaurants will be able to maintain a high quality of ingredients and service, and offer two completely different dining experiences. "With our great weather, Denver has an unusually high number of outdoor patios and cafes, and we will be able to showcase that aspect of dining out in Denver with a summer version of DRW," Scharf said. "The winter version will offer diners the same experience they've come to rely on during a time frame that is traditionally slow for restaurants, post-holiday and post-Valentine's Day."

Picking dates for the summer DRW was challenging. "We don't want to have DRW during a major convention or event, so the challenge was to find a week that was good for the restaurants to offer specials, and one in which Denver residents would be likely to participate," Scharf said. The selected dates will be after many schools open in Metro Denver, but before Labor Day weekend.

Scharf said the slight price increase was necessary to maintain quality of menu selections. "We've held the same price for nine years, and while it's hard to lose the fun of the $52.80 price point, it was necessary for the restaurants. The new price will allow chefs to get creative again and offer dishes and portions that better represent their normal fare," Scharf said.

Restaurants whose average check was at or below the old price point, can get creative with beer and wine pairings and added specials.

Denver Restaurant Week is not possible without the generous support of sponsors including: Lexus, Alamos Winery, Edna Valley Vineyard, Mirassou Winery, Louis M. Martini Winery, William Hill Winery, US Foods, Frontier Airlines, Johnson & Wales University, the Colorado Restaurant Association and the Downtown Denver Partnership Business Improvement District.

For more information, visit DenverRestaurantWeek.com.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.