Women in Hospitality: Jennifer Peters

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Jennifer Peters has spent the past seven years building what she hopes to be the “Chipotle of Gluten-Free” empire as the owner of Colorado’s largest gluten-free restaurant group Just Be Kitchen. The restaurant has locations in Denver’s LoHi neighborhood, Tech Center, and in Boulder.

Peters spent most of her professional career climbing the corporate ladder in various tech and professional firms before joining the hospitality industry. A semi-competitive athlete and fanatic about eating for high-performance, Peters became obsessed with whole foods eating but found the dining out options to be lackluster. She decided to take matters into her own hands.

She went back to school and got an MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. During a class project, she created the idea of a brand with allergen-free food at its center—the makings of Just BE Kitchen. In contrast to many of the restaurants that have allergen-free menu items, Peters wanted to create a menu beyond salads, acai bowls, and large-style proteins. She leaned into high-quality comfort food that is tasty and craveable, and also has anti-inflammatory qualities. The idea created so much excitement and support that she was connected to former CEO of Burger King Brad Bloom as a mentor.

Peters decided that Colorado, a mecca for those with healthy lifestyles, would be the perfect place to plant her first Just BE Kitchen roots. Peters faced rejection from dozens of landlords and banks concerned about her lack of a partner, restaurant experience, and proof of concept. She decided to test her kitchen-made products at farmers markets and gyms, where the feedback was resoundingly positive.

In 2017, she finally found a landlord willing to take a chance on her, and she went on to open her first location in the LoHi neighborhood as Colorado’s first 100 percent gluten-free restaurant. The concept proved to be a success, and she opened a second location in the Denver Tech Center in 2022, adjoining the gluten-free brewery Holidaily Brewing Company as a match made in gluten-free heaven. The third location, in Boulder, opened in December 2023.

We caught up with Peters to discuss her menus, challenges, the increased consumer interest in wellness, and more. Read the full Q&A, below.


What do you think has led to the increased consumer interest in wellness?

Jennifer Peters: For some people, I think they’ve been forced to embrace “wellness” because in America we are in a “sick care system” versus a healthcare system. We treat disease instead of preventing disease. Unfortunately, so many people are forced to eat better because their health has suffered. For others, there’s a shift where consumers realize they can be a better version of themselves with great nourishment, exercise, and mindfulness.


At Just Be Kitchen, you serve high-quality comfort food with a focus on anti-inflammatory qualities and the absence of allergens. How do you find meals/options that fit this model?

We really think about, “What is the most craveable kind of dish for this season?” or “What kind of food do I want to indulge in currently that I can’t find a healthy alternative for?” We’re always trying to think of the “yumptious” food that isn’t typically aligned with “healthy food” and convert it to our style of mindful cooking.

just be kitchen food
Just BE Kitchen's Bliss French Toast Sliders featuring almond flour toast, egg, bacon or sausage, maple, and toasted coconut. (Photo: Just BE Kitchen)

Are there certain ingredients you prefer using over others?

We definitely prefer specific ingredients. Our entire menu is made with alternative ingredients that are anti-inflammatory. We use nut and vegetable flours over gluten and wheat flours, we use non-dairy milk over dairy, we use non-refined sugars instead of white, inflammatory sugars!


Does your allergen-free model extend to the cocktails list as well? How?

Yes, our beers are 100% gluten-free and our spirits are grain-free, such as vodka from potatoes or grapes, and gin made from honey. We also don’t use any refined sugars in our house-made syrups and sauces.


What are some of your biggest challenges in running a multi-location restaurant, and how do you address them?

Staffing is by far the hardest and most challenging aspect of running restaurants, whether it’s one or three stores. Wage, food, and general cost inflation is another challenge and risk factor that is consistently putting pressure on operating effectively.

just be kitchen boulder
Just BE Kitchen's newest location in Boulder. (Photo: Just BE Kitchen)

What’s next for Just BE Kitchen?

We are raising capital, and our desire is to become the “Chipotle of Gluten-Free Dining.” We want to expand outside of Colorado.


Any advice for other women in the food & beverage industry?

Talk to others, consistently, so you can exchange ideas and challenges. This can be such a lonely business to run because when it’s good, it’s so good and you can breathe. When it’s rough, it’s really tough and can feel isolating. Talking to other women who are going through similar things is empowering, makes you realize you’re not crazy, and you get some amazing ideas to adapt to your own business.


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