If the dream of most restaurateurs is to grow and broaden the reach, Hugo Matheson and Kimbal Musk are kicking that vision into high gear in the next twelve months and beyond. The team behind the Kitchen, a restaurant opened nearly ten years ago in Boulder, plans to open three more restaurants in Colorado by July 2014 and take their concept to Chicago and Los Angeles soon thereafter.
At the end of May, when leases were yet to be signed, Eater chatted with Matheson about his plans to open the Kitchen [Next Door] in Glendale's City Set complex and another location of the Kitchen in Fort Collins. The ink has now dried on the leases and the architects at Semple Brown and contractors at Spectrum are hard at work to make these projects reality.
First on the expansion list: the Kitchen [Next Door] in Glendale. "We want the company to grow organically," Matheson said, adding that they "started design work on the Glendale City Set space with Semple Brown without the lease being finalized." The space at City Set is 3800 square feet and it neighbors several other eateries recently opened in the project, including Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar, Udi's, and Cuba Cuba. This second location of the Kitchen [Next Door] (first one is in Boulder at 1035 Pearl Street) will open its doors by the end of November this year. Nick Doyle, a veteran of the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant group, will lead the opening of this restaurant in his new capacity as general manager of all [Next Door] ventures.
"We do want to maintain food table service at [Next Door] in Glendale, but a quicker version of it," Matheson said. "[Next Door] in Boulder does very well and is a great business model. Not much will change from the service model at the Glendale location, but we do plan to try mobile ordering- say if there are patios and decks, waiters don't need to go back to a fixed location to put an order in," he added.
Technology is something that seems to be on Matheson's mind a lot as he moves forward with opening more restaurants. "People put a lot of time and energy into creating computers to do the ordering but somehow kept the caveman mentality of service that you need to write it down on paper and then transfer it to the computer. It's extra steps that are unnecessary. Of course, there is the question of making eye contact and having as friendly of a service attitude as possible. But the reality is that a lot of people want to be relatively quick," he explained. As we plan more restaurants, we are trying to figure out all the kinks in service that make clients wait longer than they want to," Matheson added.
A third location of the Kitchen in Fort Collins at 100 N. College Avenue will be next on the calendar of openings for the restaurant group. "Initially we thought another [Next Door] will be great for that space, but after spending some time in Fort Collins, we decided that a version of the Kitchen would work best there," Matheson confessed. The original the Kitchen opened in Boulder at 1039 Pearl Street in March of 2004 with a second location added in Denver at 1530 16th Street in March of 2012. Semple Brown, the premier architecture firm that worked with the Kitchen team on its first Denver restaurant, will lead the design on that location as well. Kate Kaufman, general manager at the Kitchen, will be in charge of opening the doors of that new 3,200 square foot space, most likely in April of 2014. And who knows, by then, there may be a plan for a [Next Door] in Fort Collins as well. Matheson does not rule out the idea, although he is clear that no such plans exist yet.
By next July, with the opening of the Union Station project, a large undertaking in which confirmed tenants include chef Alex Seidel and Snooze (and rumored tenants include chef Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja), Coloradoans will have a third location of [Next Door]. "I used to work on 32 and Walnut 13-14 years ago and that whole area has changed so much. It's nice to see it all evolve. I am very excited for Union Station and being part of that. That project will change the whole landscape and dynamic of that area," Matheson mused. "There was a generation that refused to get out of their cars and they made some of the more urban places downtown not work. The next generation seems to be moving toward public transport and that will bring energy down there," he added.
The team at the Kitchen is also exploring bringing their food to Chicago's River North neighborhood, as well as in locations in Los Angeles or Santa Monica. "We want to open in places we want to be. We are not going to open up somewhere just for the sake of opening up. We have strong connections in Chicago and in LA so those are places that make sense for us. One day- soon- those will happen," Matheson revealed. "On my way back from London, I stopped in Chicago and looked at a space. These things take a while, but apparently Sarah Brown's husband [of Semple Brown Design] has a license to work in Illinois," he added.
As for California, Matheson explained that the dream building he and the team considered may be out of reach. "We looked at a space in Santa Monica. It's a beautiful building that has been empty for 10 years- beautiful old movie theater with a great façade right on Santa Monica and Second. We sent a letter of intent in January but heard nothing back," he shared.
As those plans continue to evolve, Matheson is committed to continuing the Kitchen's mission of raising the bar on restaurant food and ingredients. "We try to raise the bar for eateries that are in our price point. If at [Next Door] all the vegetables and greens are organic, all the meats are cleaner- do you go to Next Door or to Bennigan's? We are trying to figure out how to feed people really good food at affordable prices," Matheson concluded.
· The Kitchen [Next Door], Alex Seidel, and Snooze Going into the Union Station Project [EDen]
· Kate Kaufman of The Kitchen Denver on the Downtown Location [EDen]
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