A snowy day marked the perfect occasion for the opening of a new Vietnamese soup specialist: Fee Fi Pho Fum began ladling broth Monday morning on South Broadway, sharing a wall and an owner — Jason Tietjen — with the Dive Inn next door. The restaurant is the first in what Tietjen hopes will be a long string of franchised pho houses along the Front Range and in Colorado's mountain towns.
The concept is simple: just pho with a choice of brisket, rare steak, meatballs, chicken or tofu, plus Vietnamese iced coffee and boba drinks. There's one bowl size for $10 and about twenty chairs for dine-in orders. Tietjen explains that pickup and delivery will be a primary focus, with carryout packaging designed to minimize waste and maximize freshness, and with GrubHub handling delivery duties beginning in a week or so (though he plans to eventually hire his own drivers).
A second Fee Fi Pho Fum is already planned for the Washington Park neighborhood that will be even smaller than the Broadway original; Tietjen notes that future franchises should be able to open in 500- to 600-square-foot spaces for no more than $50,000 each, including a franchise fee, equipment, utilities and several months' worth of rent. He compares his concept to Jimmy John's and certain national pizza-delivery chains when it comes to franchising potential — and when it comes to delivering lunch and dinner quickly.
Pho is traditionally served hot and fast at sit-down restaurants, and Tietjen recognizes the potential problems with to-go customers ending up with lukewarm soup. Because of that, he's taking several steps to ensure the best end-product. Reusable BPA-free molded bowls will be available for customers who order frequently; they'll be given a discount on subsequent orders when they bring back the bowls. Disposable packaging will be 70 percent compostable and will be configured as a two-piece set with a lid and a separate compartment that will keep the rice noodles, veggies and meat out of the hot broth until ready to be eaten. And an instruction card will be available for heating the broth at home if the pho won't be eaten immediately.
Inside the shop, decorative elements make for a cute place for a quick meal; painted beanstalks and Ikea fabric leaves add color, and hanging pots will soon be sprouting fresh basil for even more greenery. The order counter features thousands of chopsticks arranged in a checkerboard pattern. Table settings include several condiments for spiking your soup — including fish sauce, something many other pho joints only offer on request.
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Fee Fi Pho Fum is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tietjen notes that Friday and Saturday nights could extend into late-night hours since there are plenty of bars and music venues in the neighborhood. He says customers are welcome to bring their pho to the Dive Inn, and if you show your receipt, you can get a 22-ounce Kirin beer for $2.22 (more than half off the regular price).