By Ed Sealover – Denver Business Journal
No dust gathers on Roadhouse execs – Denver Business Journal
You may not know Roadhouse Hospitality Group yet. But if brother-owners Dan and John Shipp have their way, you will recognize the name soon.
The 24-year-old restaurant group made its most high-profile acquisition in January when it purchased the Wazee Supper Club in downtown Denver. That brought its portfolio to 17 restaurants — nine in the Denver area and eight in Colorado’s ski towns.
Included in those numbers are a hodgepodge of brands, including four Dusty Boot steakhouses, two Hodsons upscale eateries, several Roadhouses and a slew of one-off offerings.
The owners began their group by purchasing Spanky’s Urban Roadhouse near the University of Denver in 1991, and they’ve acquired or opened locations one at a time since then.
Now, though, Dan Shipp — the founder and president of operations for the group — said Roadhouse is launching a two-fold revamp of the properties.
First, the company is renovating the looks and menus of many restaurants — such as a $500,000 overhaul of Spanky’s in 2013 that led to the doubling of sales and evolved to the addition of a breakfast menu in early 2015. Second, it’s looking to rebrand a number of locations by adding the word “roadhouse” to their monikers.
“To us, roadhouse can mean anything. It’s not upscale; it’s not down,” Shipp said during a recent interview at Reiver’s Bar and Grill, a 38-year-old Washington Park haunt that will be remade as Reiver’s Roadhouse. “You have to reinvent yourself. I think food in Denver in the last five years has really lifted itself up.”
The full extent of the rebranding remains undetermined. Shipp said, for example, that executives will examine whether the Dusty Boot concept is still a distinguishing brand or has run its course.
But menus across the restaurant group that have featured 45 to 50 items will come down to about 30 offerings, allowing for more specialization of certain items and letting Roadhouse save on food costs.
Also, the Shipps soon will begin offering gift cards that can be used at any of their restaurants, hoping especially to attract people from Denver to their mountain locations and vice versa.
Expansion is on the menu as well. Shipp said the company is developing the Boulder Roadhouse in the historic train depot area, and it is negotiating with officials at the Belmar outdoor mall in Lakewood about opening a non-roadhouse concept at the old Lane Bryant location.
Wazee Supper Club will not be re-branded, as the long-time LoDo hub has a cache all its own, Shipp said. But officials revamped its Italian-themed menu at the start of February, feeling that former owners had neglected it a bit in recent years.
If it reaches 20 locations, Roadhouse would have more than 900 employees and be doing about $35 million a year in sales, Shipp said. That may be as big as the group gets — or it may not.
“Every time we say we’re done, something falls into our lap,” he said. “We weren’t actively looking for the Wazee Supper Club.”