You don't have to travel to cities outside of Colorado to experience their restaurant scenes; you need only click on the Food Network and see the likes of Guy Fieri extolling the virtues of diners, drive-ins and dives far from home. So even if you've never been to Phoenix, you may be familiar with Matt's Big Breakfast, an eatery that started as a tiny, 800-square-foot joint before expanding with three additional locations, including one at Sky Harbor International Airport. But you'll soon be able to turn off the TV and experience Matt's Big Breakfast first-hand, as founder Matt Pool is looking to come to Denver.
Pool and his wife, Erenia Lara, opened the first Matt's Big Breakfast in 2004, becoming so popular that they eventually had to move into a bigger space on the same block. The draw is nothing fancy or newfangled, just a surprisingly compact menu of familiar food. "Our goal has always been classic breakfast," Pool explains. "We use extra-virgin olive oil, butter, organic milk, cage-free eggs."
Expanding into Sky Harbor in 2014 was a big challenge for the couple. "We said no twice because we're not really airport-restaurant people," Pool notes. "We're still a mom-and-pop restaurant."
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The airport concept worked, allowing Pool to maintain the food and service at the level his customers were used to, even though the restaurant was being managed by a separate entity. With constant inquiries from other investors to help grow the brand, Matt and Erenia knew they could make it work on their terms if they took a measured approach.
With the decision to expand outside of Arizona, Pool wants to maintain that mom-and-pop experience. "We're partnering with like-minded people in certain markets," he adds. "So it's not like you'll be in a cookie-cutter restaurant. Each one has a different look and feel."
Pool chose Denver as the first city for expansion because he sees the city as "receptive to the things we do and the way we cook." While an exact location hasn't been nailed down, he says the LoHi neighborhood is very attractive, and he hopes to have the first outpost open by the end of 2018, with up to three franchised locations within the next two years. While Matt's doesn't quite fit the Denver notion of boozy, brunchy breakfast hangouts, Pool says he's looking into liquor licenses, but that the focus will still be on high-quality breakfast served quickly.
The overall goal is "very limited regional growth," with other potential franchises in Nevada, Texas and New Mexico — which would make the "big" in Matt's Big Breakfast about far more than just the portion sizes.