Spotlight on Edwards’ restaurants
High Country Business Review
Connie Irons, owner of The Gashouse restaurant, is known for taking off her Prada jacket to bus tables. She believes, as do many other restaurateurs, that this kind of hard work can make or break a restaurant.
According to Business Week, 90 percent of restaurants across the nation fail within their first year. Irons has been busing tables for 25 years while watching other restaurants pop up all over Edwards. Many of them are succeeding.
There are more than 20 restaurants in the Vail Valley’s most populous area, and most of them have lasted much longer then a year or two. During ski season, tourists who want a bit of local flavor head west to enjoy a meal, but it’s locals that keep the restaurants in business.
Nikki Heiden, who opened Main St. Grill with husband, Chris, in 2000, calls Edwards a “dining mecca.” Heiden laughs about restaurants “popping up like Starbucks” all over Edwards. Often, hungry customers run into Main St. Grill for a quick bite to eat before heading to the movies.
Is there a secret to the success of all these restaurants?
“You have to stay on it all the time,” said Mustang Bar and Grill owner Chris Lloyd. Lloyd worries about of the future of Edwards-based restaurants, despite the current bustle. He has observed his steady customers leaving Edwards and moving to Eagle in search of less expensive homes. With more restaurants opening seemingly every year, he worries about his future profits.
As much work as the restaurant business is, profit margins are slim.
“It’s a business that requires 80 percent of your total potential every day to break even,” said Jim Errant, who opened Frites in 2005 and The Gore Range Brewery in 1997. “That leaves 20 percent where you might make a profit. The restaurant business is a very expensive business to maintain.”
While the restaurant business is highly competitive, Ed Tracey, the executive chef at Frites, loves the camaraderie among eateries.
“I can run over to the French Press if I ever run out of calamari,” Tracey said. In order to be successful, Tracey changes the menus with each season. What he aims for, he said, is to never have exactly the same menu two nights in a row.
As hard as the business is, why is Edwards so full of restaurants?
Most restaurant owners agree that it’s Edwards central location that makes it such a dining hot spot. Customers come from both Eagle and Vail for dinner. And unlike Vail, hungry patrons can park out front.
“It’s all about convenience” said Ramona Wouters, manager of Ray’s, which opened in 2004. “People come to Edwards for good service, good food and a friendly atmosphere.”
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