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Denver's Hard Rock Cafe shines the spotlight on a new menu in their new venue

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Originally opened within the Denver Pavilions in November 1998, Hard Rock Cafe Denver’s renovation, encompassing the entire 10,938-square-foot property, includes new modern décor; an expanded bar area with 24 beers on tap, more than half of which feature local microbrews; outdoor seating with views of downtown Denver; the Rock Shop retail store; and the signature hard Rock Cafe stage, highlighted by four new state-of-the-art 52-inch multimedia screens. The private Red Rocks function room overlooks Denver’s iconic 16th Street walking mall and the cafe’s signature 20-foot neon guitar, and also received a floor-to-ceiling makeover.

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The renovated cafe offers a unique look at the history and future of music, with an entirely new memorabilia collection. The more than 200 unique pieces showcase the history of rock and roll, with a focus on artists who have performed at Denver’s famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Highlights include boots worn by The Doors’ Jim Morrison; a guitar smashed in 1964 on stage by The Who’s Pete Townshend, when the band was still called the High Numbers; “ventilator” glasses worn by Elton John during a performance; a set of handwritten preliminary lyric ideas by the legendary Jimi Hendrix; handwritten lyrics to “Rhiannon,” photocopied by Stevie Nicks, with notations added; and a tobacco burst Gibson Howard Roberts acoustic guitar used by Alex Lifeson of Rush, among other items. These pieces and more will be further highlighted on the cafe’s cutting-edge, multimedia Rock Wall Solo, featuring multi-touch technology that enables fans to explore the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia collection, and virtually tour all of Hard Rock’s venues worldwide.

Adding to the excitement of Hard Rock Cafe Denver’s new look, Hard Rock International recently rolled out a newly redesigned menu, following more than 14 months of culinary development, intensive research and guest evaluation. The extensive process resulted in the addition of 30 new menu items, and the modification of 28 existing menu items. As it always has, the made-from-scratch menu remains full of fresh ingredients, but more local and seasonal offerings have been integrated as well.

The brand surveyed more than 3,000 guests in cafes across six continents to collect feedback on more than 100 items from its existing and redesigned test menus. The research, conducted by Cohen Research Group, included a side-by-side comparison of current menu items and modified versions – taking into consideration variations like seasoning, textures, flavor profiles, burger patty blends, French fry cut and more. The process resulted in the addition of 30 new items and the modification of 28 existing menu items.

“Our food and beverage team has worked tirelessly over the last 14 months, evaluating every item on our menu from appetizers and entrees, to desserts and cocktails - even our china and glassware,” said Fred Thimm, Chief Operating Officer of Company Cafes for Hard Rock International.

“For more than 40 years, Hard Rock has served guests around the world by showing off our unique rock n’ roll atmosphere,” said Mike Zajak, Sr., Director of Culinary Development for Hard Rock. “This menu redesign reflects our ever-present commitment to bringing guests fresh, authentic scratch-based offerings.”

Every garnish and ingredient was put under scrutiny during the process. More than 27 types of buns were sampled before the final brioche bun was selected. Burgers were evaluated by a number of different factors, including various blend combinations of premium ground beef and brisket, as well as fat to lean ratios, thickness and shape. During the menu revamp, Hard Rock made freshness and quality a top priority. The entire entrée salad selection of the menu was reinvented, with five varieties of lettuce combinations brought in during the testing phase. Seasonal options for vegetable of the day and various burger toppings were added as well.

In updating plates, glasses and serving dishes, the brand worked with 14 different suppliers and brought in hundreds of patterns, shapes, sizes and colors to enhance the visual appeal of each dish.

Hard Rock added items in each menu category to give guests the widest variety of options. Three new salads (Grilled Chicken Chop Salad, Grilled Chicken Arugula Salad, Cobb Salad) and three of the new desserts (House-made Carrot Cake, Molten Lava Cake and Cheesecake with Oreo Cookie Pieces) all received extremely high marks. Research concluded that each of those items received order-again ratings of 90 percent and above – nearly every guest that tested those menu items would order again upon their next visit. Another sure-fire hit being introduced is the Grilled Vegetable Sandwich, which combines freshly grilled vegetables, spicy Monterey Jack cheese, with a dash of Balsamic reduction on toasted sour dough bread.

All the new items kept in line with Hard Rock’s core menu concept of scratch-based, all-American favorites that resonate with diners around the world. Popular new menu items added include entrees like the Cowboy Rib eye, a USDA choice 16-ounce, bone-in steak cooked to perfection, served with a choice of two sides, and Smoked Beef Brisket Sandwich, slow-cooked beef brisket, topped with hickory barbecue sauce on a toasted brioche bun. Hard Rock also updated the sides, which allows guests to customize their meals such as Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes and Daily Fresh Vegetables.

Hard Rock also found that some menu items were a guest favorite just the way they were – or with minor modifications to propel them from chart topper to legend. For example, Hard Rock’s Nachos replaced a layer of queso with two layers of mixed cheeses and added options for new toppings such as savory pulled pork and smoked beef brisket to be reborn as their signature “Nachopalooza.” Also, the famous Jumbo Chicken Wings will now debut as “Rockin’ Wings” with a reformulated signature smoked dry rub and a choice of Classic Rock, Tangy or Heavy Metal Sauces.

“We took a hard look at every single menu item and aimed to modify where needed, including added ingredients, sauces, how sides accompany the main dishes, and even what type of lettuce should appear on top of our Legendary Burgers,” said Russell Booth, Hard Rock International Executive Chef. “For example, we tested a thinner French fry, but found our guests favored our original thicker version, so no change was ultimately made.”

Additional favorites that were modified for the new menu include the Hickory Smoked BBQ Ribs, Grilled Norwegian Salmon, Hickory Smoked Chicken Wings, and the Legendary Burger, an 8-ounce grilled-to-perfection burger served with cheddar cheese, smoked bacon slices, iceberg lettuce and special Hard Rock seasoning presented on a fresh Brioche bun.

Hard Rock also spent six months researching what quenches guests’ thirst, by analyzing international beverage trends and current sales and trends to determine the best way to remix its drink lineup. The brand recruited its top 10 beverage partners to assist with menu development and training. Hard Rock developed more than 150 plus drinks in the key areas, including tiki, coffee, dessert, mojitos, margaritas, lemonades, multi liquor teas and more.

Hard Rock took this menu redesign as an opportunity to put itself at the forefront of drink innovation with the introduction of new drink serving vessels and techniques. The Air Mexico, a sampling-sized portion of Hard Rock’s classic tasty margaritas, allows guests to choose three flavors, including Habenero Lime, Blue Curacao, and Dessert Pear, served with a portion of chips & house made salsa.

In addition, the Red Berry Press, Hard Rock’s unique, sweet fruit cocktail made with fresh hulled and sliced strawberries, fresh raspberries, lemonade, lemon-lime soda, and Clementine Vodka, garnished with a lemon wedge is served in a coffee-press style vessel that infuses fruit into the cocktail throughout the drinking process. The brand also updated its existing glassware offerings to enhance its new cocktails, including new carafes for wine and different hot drinks glasses that contemporized the offerings.

Capitalizing on industry trends, a subset of Hard Rock’s beverage menu focused on the concept of sweet and savory. The new beverage menu features cocktails with ingredients such as spiced brown sugar, salted caramel, chocolate and even bacon. In addition, Hard Rock is introducing several new alcoholic and non-alcoholic milkshakes, including the Vanilla Root Beer Shake, blended with rum, spiced brown sugar syrup, vanilla vodka, half and half, vanilla ice cream, blended with a few ounces of root beer, garnished with a dollop of whipped cream. Another option is the Salted Caramel Cafe, Tia Maria, Baileys, Salted Caramel Syrup, half and half, and hot coffee, topped with whipped cream and pieces of caramel corn caramel sauce.

Hard Rock Cafe’s new and improved menu features Hard Rock’s authentic American, made-from-scratch cuisine, a commitment to fresh ingredients and the signature flair that guests can only get at Hard Rock. For more information about Hard Rock Cafe and the new menu, visit www.HardRock.com.

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