Burgers, movies and speakers: Why Vail Valley-founded Larkburger is rebranding | VailDaily.com

Burgers, movies and speakers: Why Vail Valley-founded Larkburger is rebranding

Lark Spot marketing manager Marueen Cherrett, left, and company CEO Todd Coerver at the company's first Lark Spot, in Arvada.
Wigwam Creative, Inc
By the numbers 6: Larkburger stores closed recently. 8: Stores remaining. 2.7 percent: Decline in restaurant industry foot traffic in the first quarter of 2018. $799 billion: Restaurant industry sales in 2017. Sources: Larkburger, businessinsider.com.

EAGLE COUNTY — What worked in the restaurant business in 2006 doesn’t necessarily work any longer. That’s why locally founded Larkburger is now Lark Spot.

The Larkburger group recently closed six of its 14 locations and has launched a rebranding effort that includes more than just a name change.

In a phone interview, Lark Spot CEO Todd Coerver said the closed stores — two in the Kansas City area, as well as locations in downtown Denver, in Denver’s Washington Park and University Hills areas and in Broomfield — weren’t keeping up financially, putting a drain on the rest of the group.

“Spending to prop those locations up was taking away a lot of capital” from the rest of the group, Coerver said.

With the contraction, Coerver said money is being freed up for a plan to rebrand the company’s remaining restaurants and expand into new spaces.

The rebrand

Coerver said the decision to rebrand from Larkburger to Lark Spot is the result of a contraction in the restaurant business, particularly the “fast casual” market in which Larkburger competed.

With the entry of a number of competitors into the market, there were eventually “more seats than butts to fill them,” Coerver. To survive, the company had to rethink its approach and try to understand what customers want.

That led to the ideas that created Lark Spot. The philosophy behind the change is to create places different from the competition where people want to spend some time.

The one-store-at-a-time rebranding will be mostly finished this year. The company’s Arvada location has already finished its rebranding. The walk-up ordering counter has been replaced by a bar. Ordering is done at automated kiosks. For those who want to talk to a human or pay cash, there will be one order kiosk staffed by a person.

The idea is to get people into a space where they’re comfortable spending some time.

The Larkburger locations “did nothing to create that sense of gathering,” Coerver said.

Company officials had to take a hard look at the business to see how to move it forward, Coerver said. The food is great — as loyal local customers will attest — but there needs to be something more.

The Lark Spot in Arvada wants to invite people in to perhaps plan their next Colorado adventures. There’s a topographical map atop the bar, and a small library with trail maps, hiking books and games for the kids. There’s also a “dream board,” where customers can write down their next adventures.

Burgers and movies

The Arvada Lark Spot, and other locations, will also host adventure films and guest speakers. It’s part of the plan to create a community around a restaurant.

Coerver said Lark Spot is also looking into expanding, but into different kinds of spaces. Instead of a storefront in a shopping center, the company is looking for stand-alone locations. The company will soon open a stand-alone location in Louisville, near Boulder. That building once held a barbecue restaurant that has closed. Coerver said Lark Spot is looking for similar locations.

Those spots will have the kind of room needed to make the full Lark Spot idea come to life. That includes more attention to “grab and go” service.

Coerver said all of these changes, from expanded menu choices to continuing the sustainability and recycling efforts that date to the company’s 2006 opening, will be incorporated into the new attitude and aesthetic.

The Edwards location will rebrand, too, but won’t see as many changes. There simply isn’t enough space.

Coerver said the Edwards location — which is the company’s second-best store in terms of sales per square foot — will see the aesthetic changes, but there simply isn’t room for the amenities planned for other stores.

“It’s a small space, but there are ways to reconfigure it to add seating capacity.”

Time, and the market, will tell if Lark Spot will take off. The good news, though, is that no matter what you call it, there’s still a place to get a Larkburger, truffle fries and a shake.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.

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