Yard House will open third Colorado restaurant Sunday in Park Meadows

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Yard House will open its 39th location in the country and its third in Colorado, at Park Meadows in Lone Tree, on Sunday, July 1. The first local Yard House opened in Colorado Mills six years ago; the second in downtown Denver in late 2010. The new Yard House is using the same winning formula, which relies on a huge selection of draft beers as well as an expansive American menu and commitment to local charities.

The Yard House chain got its start in 1996 in California; founder Steele Platt had several restaurants in the Tivoli back in the '80s. We couldn't reach Platt, but we did get to speak with Jennifer Weerheim, Yard House's president of marketing, about the concept:

Westword: What's new and exciting about the Park Meadows location?

Jennifer Weerheim: There's a brand-new menu that we're rolling out. We're introducing some lower calorie items, and we've got a new kung pao calamari that we've been testing at other locations. It's a very popular item. We're also featuring our flatbread and salted caramel butterscotch pudding. We don't like to have different menus at locations in the same region, so we'll put those same menus at the other Denver locations as well. Plus we are installing our Chalkboard Series, which is an answer to guest requests for more local breweries and anomaly beers. The digital Chalkboard Series will be going into all three locations as well, featuring five to seven beers with a flat screen for customers to choose beers. It also allows us to quickly update tapped out beer.

How do your Colorado locations compare to others nationwide?

Very well. Denver is a great market for Yard House. We have a lot of different people who enjoy Yard House, so Denver is a good fit for us. We've been very well received in the downtown Denver market, benefiting from conventions and businesspeople there. Then we draw a lot of families of shoppers in Lakewood. Our menu has such a diverse offering of food that everyone can be satisfied. People like to bring their children because it's a little noisier than other places, so children can be louder in the open environment.

I think the new store will draw a lot of families and shoppers as well, and it'll fall right in the middle in terms of revenue.

How are you incorporating Food Bank of the Rockies?

We've been part of this program for two and a half years. On any given day, each location raises about thirty to forty dollars from small customer donations. Since the program's launch in 2009, we've raised around $8,000, which has all been given to charities. We've donated over $20,000 to Food Bank of the Rockies just from the guest donations. It's a great program. Yard House is the founding restaurant for Round It Up America, and we made it an industry-wide initiative, not just a Yard House initiative. You'll see it in other restaurants throughout the nation. It started because we kept reading articles and watching the news and seeing local food banks without any food on the shelves, so we felt that we needed to do something as a company. Rather than asking for a few large donations, we decided to ask a lot of people to donate just a little. Now we are in 22 states nationwide and sponsored by American Red Cross, the National Restaurant Association and Coca-Cola.

Nobody makes any money on this. Plus, 10 percent of the money raised goes into a cumulative account called National Disaster Relief that can be drawn on for disasters like Hurricane Katrina. Last year a tornado in Joplin, Missouri, devastated an area two miles wide and thirteen miles long. I went down there with the President of Yard House to help with the relief. From pictures we anticipated the destruction, but when we got on the ground we couldn't believe how more people hadn't lost their lives.

What are the pre-celebration parties?

We usually invite business people from the communities to these pre-openings. At this one we're inviting a lot of residents, hotel concierges and mall managers, who are all hand-given invites. This is really a huge event for us. We want to introduce everyone to Yard House and our menu. We're going to build our fan base much quicker from people who get to taste the food rather than by putting an ad out. We want people who want to try Yard House or who already love Yard House to come so we can show them that Yard House is a good place to dine.

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