Restaurants congregate around mall, believing competition good thing

BROOMFIELD — FlatIron Crossing mall and surrounding retail projects continue to develop and fill in with new shops. And with the new retail has come numerous restaurants, banking on both hungry shoppers, nearby office workers and nighttime diners from around the Boulder Valley.

Location and what’s surrounding that location play a big role in determining the type of customers drawn to each restaurant, according to many of the restaurant spokespeople. And although the number of eateries is high, established restaurants look at the selection as support rather than strictly competition.

The mall and surrounding retail areas offer 20 restaurants, according to Chris Stallman, FlatIron Crossing marketing manager. Some opened with the mall, and some are just opening and finalizing menus. The cuisines represent a variety of tastes and cultures. For now, no new restaurants are scheduled to open.

Benihana, one of the newer restaurants, set up its Japanese hibachi-style kitchen in late January. ?Our location hurts a little because you don’t see us right away, but our name helps a lot,? said Jose Sotelo, kitchen manager.

Hanging the Benihana sign two months before the doors were ready to open helped alert people to the grand opening. ?We did big promotions, too — newspapers, radio, TV, movie theaters and mail-order promotions,? Sotelo added.

With 15 years experience in Benihana restaurants, Sotelo views this opening as ?pretty good with a lot of room to grow.? Families tend to be the primary customer group. ?We do a lot of birthday celebrations and anniversaries,? he said.

Jason’s Deli opened in December in the Flatiron Marketplace, southwest of FlatIron Crossing mall. ?We’d love to see the entire area have more growth,? said Carla Vigil, marketing manager. ?We’re hoping E-470 will cure some of that. There’s a lot of vacancy out here.?

Jason’s deals with location concerns by delivering to many of its customers rather than waiting for them to come in and order. Vigil measures the split as 40 percent catering and 60 percent in-store sales. ?The limitations for in-house business are related to the fact that there’s not a lot of foot traffic out here, and we’re just short of the Zip (mall shuttle bus) travel route.?

This Jason’s is one of six in Colorado. The deli relies on coupons, advertisements and word of mouth to bring customers in. ?When the first one opened in the ’60s, free ice cream was its entire marketing budget,? Vigil said. Free ice cream continues to be an enticement, she added.

Most of Jason’s business comes from area businesspeople looking for lunch combined with shoppers needing a break in the day. ?We do a lot of soup, salad and sandwiches — a step up from fast food but with the speed still there.?

Vigil believes the variety of restaurants and eateries in the area helps everyone’s business. ?You can’t expect people to eat the same thing everyday. I think choice is good. As long as there are not too many of the same types of restaurants in the area, a variety helps all of us.?

Fernando Hernandez, manager of Qdoba Mexican Grill, also located in the Marketplace, rates business as ?pretty good.? Like Vigil, Hernandez hopes development in the Marketplace area speeds up to bring in more business. Most of Qdoba’s business comes in at lunchtime from offices in the Interlocken area.

Qdoba has been in the Marketplace for one and one-half years and was actually one of the first in the center, according to Kevin Browne, Qdoba regional manager. ?It helps that there are other restaurants out here because it drives more people into the area,? he said. ?Once they come out here, we can hook them.?

The Mediterranean Café came to FlatIron just three months after the mall opened in 2000. ?Our customers are health-conscious people who want a fast meal but something more lean,? said Manager Margaret Andrade. She calls employees from surrounding businesses regular lunch customers.

?We thought business would be less this year, but it’s been about the same as last year,? Andrade said. In addition to catering, phone book ads and distributed coupons, the café relies on people walking by and tasting a sample as a way to increase business.

CB & Potts has fed the area for a little more than two years, according to Noelle Olesh, general manager. In addition to good later-in-the-week lunch and dinner business, happy hours keep customers coming in, she said. ?There are a lot of different concepts here that reach different groups,? Olesh added. ?People come to the area for one place, then see we’re here, too. It helps us reach a bigger group.?

Nichole Waichunas, a waitress with Taigun Japanese Restaurant, said local businesspeople, business travelers who are staying in the area and residents of surrounding neighborhoods make up the bulk of its business. ?It took a little while to gain business because we’re a little hidden, but in 2003 business has been increasing,? she explained. Taigun opened in July.

?A lot of people are starting to come in and say, ?I live in Rock Creek and didn’t know you were here,’? Waichunas added.