There's always a story behind good food, and at Taste of Philly, the story is the saga of cheesesteak, a history that hangs on the wall. And Ken Brown, who ran the original location and now runs the company that franchises the concept, will add another chapter to the story in January, when he opens store number thirteen at 9623 East County Line Road near the Park Meadows Mall.
"It's all about the buy-in," Brown says. "The whole idea is to make it so they are going to make money."
Brown's been working at making money since he moved here from the Philadelphia area, home of the cheesesteak, to run the Colorado Boulevard store as a family operation when it opened in 1993. During the early years, he moonlighted as a cook for a University of Denver fraternity house to make ends meet.
"We want the cheesesteak to be authentic in a meaningful way, and consistent product is a challenge with growth," he says seventeen years later. "But after all these years, I still love the cheesesteak and want to expand the business."
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Brown keeps things personal. Rather than rely on traditional advertisement to find the next franchisee and customers for the next store, the company uses social networking to advertise store openings -- in case the mystical drawing power of the cheesesteak alone is not enough.
"There is this pent-up demand for people waiting for us to open," Brown says. "And there is a huge response to our low price point. This is never going to be fine dining, but I have been doing this for seventeen years, and we make money because we drive high volumes."
A dozen high-volume stores currently stretch from Denver to Colorado Springs, and Taste of Philly is now looking beyond Colorado. "We have a good market in Denver, and we are going to take a more rapid approach to expanding," Brown says. "You are always working; this is always a job. When you buy a restaurant, it buys you for a while, and that's how it works. "