Kate Kaufman, is a restaurant veteran with 20 years experience under her belt ranging from managing Denver and Boulder restaurants to opening up The Truffle Cheese & Exotic Foods Shops before she took her current role as General Manager of The Kitchen Denver in March of this year. The 4th restaurant from The Kitchen Community and the first to open in Denver, the 150+ seat restaurant has been busy since the day it opened. Kate who believes and trains her employees "to be advocates for our guests and not gatekeepers," sat with Eater to uncover The Kitchen Denver's busiest nights, upcoming special events and how to ensure you get a table!
The Kitchen Denver has been open since March of this year – how are things going? It has been great. We're still pretty new as we're only 7 months in, so it's still an adventure everyday. But it has been really fun and wonderful to be in Denver.
You're open everyday 11 AM to close, what are your busiest days? Tuesday nights seem to be extraordinary. Then Friday and Saturday, of course. Friday typically leads the pack with the critical hours seems to be between 7:30 and 8:30 PM.
What is your average wait time? Friday and Saturday are the only nights we have over a half hour wait and really only during that crunch time. We may hit an hour sometimes an hour and a half on Friday but we're big enough and the tables turn quickly enough that it hasn't been too difficult. Throughout the week between 7:30 and 8 PM it's occasionally a half hour wait, but really just during that time and it's not too bad.
Do you recommend guests make reservations for those busy nights or are walk- in still a feasible option with the size of the restaurant? We leave about 40% for walk-in which doesn't include the bar or bar seating (which is always available walk-in). We are perfectly happy to accommodate either way. I certainly understand that sometimes its wonderful to have a reservation and sometimes its nice to just walk down the street and say, "lets go in there." Both are wonderful in my view.
What are some tips you have for people looking to snag a table at The Kitchen Denver? I very much recommend that people come a little before they want to eat so that if there's a wait, they're still comfortable. Knowing that you want to eat at 7, then come in at 6:30 and it's a bit easier if you have a wait. We're happy to get you cocktails and appetizers and make you comfortable while you're waiting too.
Have you ever been offered a bribe or money to get seated at The Kitchen Denver? You know in my almost 20 years of the business (not that I like admitting that) I have never been offered a bribe! I think it's funny because it definitely happens. I would have to say I would be pleasantly amused if someone did. But I certainly hold true that the best part of my job really is when a guest comes in and they're expecting to not be able to sit and I say, "I would be happy to get you a table right now," and their face when I do that, is amazing. That part of welcoming anyone in and taking care of anybody is really wonderful. I would hope that comes across to all the guests and it wouldn't feel necessary [to offer a bribe].
In your time working at restaurants like Aubergine Café and opening The Truffle Cheese & Exotic Foods Shop, what have you learned is most important service lesson within the restaurant industry? That every person who walks through the door has an expectation and they want to be taken care of and meeting those expectations is why I do this. It's also important to understand that different people have different expectations and you're not supposed to meet it all the same. Some people want a lot of attention, some want less, some want you to be extremely friendly, some a little more reserved and let them have their space. Everyone who walks in the door are people and they should be treated as people and not as one concept. Knowing your community and how they want to be taken care of is the most important part of service.
The Kitchen Denver hosts a good amount of special events in your space, what are some upcoming ones? We have our Monday night community night. They're really special for us. Every Monday night at 7 PM we have one long table in the middle of one of our dining rooms that seats anywhere from 24 people and we like it when it's groups of 2's and 4's and varied people from our neighborhood or surrounding communities come. They can come and eat a family style meal that the chef prepares. Right now, its' still building in Denver. But in Boulder we have people meet at community night, sitting across from someone they don't know and then they would come back together the next time, for another dinner. Its wonderful to see that and seeing that them share a meal can give this gift of friendship. Its one of my favorite things we do. We're also looking at doing a couple of wine lunches on the weekend and special beer dinners too.
All The Kitchen restaurants are wildly popular. How do you want guests to view The Kitchen Denver when they walk out of your restaurant? To be wowed. In Denver specifically we've been learning how different the community is - for example, Denver enjoys more formal service. It has been fun to take our kitchen style of service that is warm to also making it formal, for what Denver expects. We're blending the two concepts together. When people leave I want them to leave with an overwhelming sense of being taken care of. I want them to want to bring their friend from Ireland, or bring their daughter in town or provide a gift certificate for The Kitchen for their daughter's anniversary. I want it to feel like a sense of a second home here where it's a comfortable and happy place.
· All The Kitchen Community Coverage [EDen]
· All The Kitchen Denver Coverage [EDen]
Kate Kaufman: [Photo: Courtesy of The Kitchen]