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10/2/2003

Online eatery

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — What do you do when you’re one of Boulder County’s highest profile restaurants and you want to add to your bottom line?

You listen to your customers.

“We’ve always done (corporate meetings) for customers who have wanted that — for friends — but we’ve never actively promoted that,” said Scott Monette, general manager and co-owner of the Flagstaff House with his brother Mark, the restaurant’s executive chef.

Scott said the two had been talking about some sort of expansion — perhaps opening another restaurant in the area — “but before we step into that ballpark, let’s maximize what we’re doing here,” he said.

Their first step was to hire Louisville-based CTA Public Relations, “and that’s really the first time we’ve ever done anything like that,” Scott said. “We’ve always put the money back into the restaurant — the chairs and glasses and the wine list.”

From there, they began advertising on a new Web site that they had space available in the daytime for corporate meetings and luncheons, something that has generated quite a bit of interest, they say.

CTA also has helped the brothers launch an e-commerce site, www.shopflagstaffhouse.com, where they sell many of the items that customers had requested to buy in the past.

“It just went up a couple of weeks ago, and we’re still experimenting with it,” Scott said. “We want to add more food items to it as well.”

The brothers say that given that the Flagstaff House is often home to special-occasion-type dinners — anniversaries, birthday celebrations and the like — customers in the past often would ask if they could buy things to take home as a way of remembering their special night. Now, those items are available to anyone with an Internet connection.

The brothers say that two of the more popular items on the Web site are the hand-painted German champagne flutes, which are bought directly from the factory and sell for $38 each, and the 111/4-inch-high bronze rabbit butler, which sells for $48.

“And the martini glass has been a favorite,” Scott said. “It’s stuff we have in-house anyway — so we’re not spending any more money to keep those things in.

“It started out just being 10 items, but then as we started getting into it we started saying, ‘Let’s put this on there and this on there,’ and it just grew from there.”

Many of the items on the Web site already are bought in bulk by the restaurant, which allows owners to keep prices on their Web site reasonable. They also can leverage the connections they and their father have made over the years, such as with the German glass factory.

“We’ve always looked for special things,” Scott said.

As for the food that is sold on the Web site, “If you buy it to be shipped, we don’t incur those other costs” that come with seating diners in the restaurant, Mark said.

Packaged in an air-tight, sealed package and shipped in a styrofoam cooler-container, the food is identical to what you would see on the Flagstaff House menu — such as the rack of Colorado lamb with pancetta-wrapped quail for $28.

“All they’ve got to do is put it in the oven and heat up the sauce,” said Mark, who joined his father’s restaurant as executive chef in 1985. “The rack of lamb we get — the quality — is second to none.”

The Flagstaff also has launched a series of “Wine, Dine & Cook” events, where patrons can sign up to take a wine and cooking class with Mark, followed by a gourmet lunch and samples from what is purported to be Colorado’s largest wine cellar.

It’s all part of what CTA is calling “project outreach,” a way for the Flagstaff House, atop Flagstaff Mountain, to increase revenue and its exposure to the community — Boulder and beyond.

“Any business needs to grow; any business and any businessperson needs to grow,” said Mark, 41, who received his training in fine dining establishments in New York City, France and the Orient.

Scott, 38, who has a degree in hotel and restaurant management and has worked around the country, joined his brother at the Flagstaff in 1993. He said their father, Don, is still involved in the restaurant, although not on a day-to-day basis.

“He’s always been there for support and helpful advice,” said Scott. “He’s been a great sounding board for us.”

Asked if he ever imagined that he and his older brother would one day be running the restaurant that they both grew up working in, Scott said, “We said, ‘Let’s try it for a year and see what happens.’ The fact that we’re opposite (personalities) actually helps us a lot.

“It’s really a team — we’re really very much together. And it has to be that way.”

“It was always in the back of my mind that I would be here, but it was a dream, not a reality,” added Mark. “I would always dream of what I could do with this place.”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.