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How to Open a Restaurant in Denver

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According to the New York Times, "There’s no getting around Denver’s culinary specialty, red meat, the starring attraction at Old West-themed barbecue joints all over town." Depending on how you look at it, this Coloradan city's specialty may be an opportunity to open another restaurant that does this same theme even better, or to play to different taste buds. Whatever kind of restaurant you choose to open in Denver, you will need a solid business plan, publicity plan and a host of licenses.

Open that Restaurant

Write a business plan. The most important part of this will be deciding what kind of food you want to serve and in what setting. See if you can find a type of food that is underrepresented in Denver (hint: this will not be beef). Perhaps a gastropub with reasonable prices would fill a hole. Or a Swiss-style fondue restaurant for the cold Colorado nights might be welcome. Use your imagination.

Choose a location. Denver is flat as a pancake, so once you have the capital together, hit the pavement looking for a spot for your restaurant. Try to strike a balance between finding a place that doesn't have too many neighboring restaurants (competition) nor too few interesting stores (you would lose foot traffic).

Raise capital. Opening a restaurant is an expensive proposition. Make sure you have enough to cover buying or renting a location, covering losses for the first year, paying yourself and your staff, and purchasing equipment and ingredients. If you don't have enough money yourself, present your business plan to possible investors. Or take out a loan from a bank.

Hone the design of your menu. Keep in mind the type of people you would like to attract. Families, seniors, romantic couples, and singles all want different types of food. Create a format that is attractive to your target group--large print for seniors, for example.

Apply to the local health inspector for a food handlers license and, if you plan to serve it, a liquor license. The food handlers license will cost $10 and is obtainable online at the website of Colorado Food Handlers.

Prepare for your grand opening. The last step before opening is coming up with a comprehensive marketing plan. Keep in mind that Denver has a population of more than 3 million, so narrow in on your demographic and how to reach them. Consider cutting prices sharply for your first week in business. And you can take out ads in popular radio stations or in the local newspaper, the Denver Post. Do everything you can to draw attention to your new restaurant.


Rebecca Jenkins has contributed to newspapers and blogs since 2004. She has written for numerous publications, including her college newspaper and the "San Francisco Chronicle." Her work has also appeared on various websites. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Dublin and has done master's work in political science.