We had a writer here not long ago and when she finished dinner she said “I have two words for you, NEW YORK.” Well, New York may not be the exactly the right answer but the message was clear.
We have been here for two years and fifty weeks. That is a long time, particularly in the world of food and wine. Currently our audience is limited. Who comes to Pagosa Springs, CO? Heck, where is Pagosa Springs? We were lured out here with the promise of a truly high end establishment where no expense was spared and the owners were willing to do whatever it took to get things rolling as quickly as possible. We were brought out here to produce some of the best food in the world. The issue is that there simply aren’t enough people to cook for. We have had a smattering of guests all of who have been truly floored by the food.
This business is known for it’s ups and downs and through the past few years there has been an ebb and flow of staff. In addition to being the Executive Chefs, we have pinch hitted as the interim general managers, housekeeper, bell boy, maintenance man, activities guide, chauffeur, wait staff, bartender, guest services clerk, administrative assistant, there isn’t a single job in this establishment that we haven’t done. It’s been an amazing learning experience but…funny thing is, the food is the only aspect of the experience where we stand alone.
There are lots of other places with equally luxurious rooms, great service, better fishing, better hunting, better horse-back riding, nicer trails, bigger spas, the list is endless. When we were hired we were told that the food was one of the most important things because everyone needs to eat. The owners wanted the best food in the world. And yet, to them it’s not about the food. It’s about the whole experience. That’s why 95% of our guests are still talking about the food when they leave. That’s why most of the writers who came out this past year told us to highlight the food. That’s why it’s so hard to get people to take that extra plane trip to Durango.
Don’t get us wrong, its beautiful out here and there’s plenty to do but none of it is alluring enough to bring people in droves. We’re too isolated and we don’t have the absolute best of anything, except the food. The thing of is that we are about the food and unfortunately we might as well be in Alaska cooking for Kodiak bears. It seems probable that more people would travel to see that, taste the food and want to return.
Our biggest audience is the readers of this website, many of whom want to experience what we can do, but cannot because it’s so difficult to get here. Firstly it’s expensive, overnight bed and breakfast rates start at $395 a night and do not include dinner. Dinner is $85/person for five courses. That does not include tax, tip or beverages. If you’re coming out for the food, you almost have to stay with us because we are not often open to the general public.
There just isn’t a huge demand among the locals. Most of them can’t afford it and don’t want this kind of food even if they could. Here in God’s country they like fried chicken, big steaks, and hearty portions of solid food. Not exactly what we serve in our dining room for dinner. Flying in to Pagosa requires a hop from Denver or Phoenix unless you want to fly into Albuquerque and drive. We are not on the way to or from anywhere and the only way to get here is to make a special trip. For the most part it takes an entire day’s travel each way. Which means that unless you live within a few hours drive, if you just come for an evening, you will spend more time in transit than you actually do on the property. These are tough logistics to swallow for a casual traveler.
Today it hit me. No matter how hard we strive towards improving the cuisine, the establishment and ourselves we just cannot reach our audience here. We may have boosters that pop in to take a peek at the show, they may even try to spread the word to others, but without an actual audience the show does not go on. Just being open does not mean that you’re in business.
Where does that leave me today? A little upset, because now I can no longer claim ignorance. It’s much easier to ignore the facts that we don’t want to face. Yet, with knowledge I can make changes. I can take steps to improve the situation and to find our audience.