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What is Restaurant Week? (and Why Should Your Business Participate?)

Over the past few decades, an event known as restaurant week has grown into a nationwide phenomenon. But, what is restaurant week and how did it start? Many foodservice establishments may also wonder if it's worth it for their business to join the event. We'll discuss how restaurant week got started, how it can benefit your business, and how your restaurant can get the most out of the event.

What is Restaurant Week?

Restaurant week is an event where restaurants offer reduced or fixed price menus, so customers can try many different types of food that may normally be out of their price range. Typically, it is mid- and upper-range establishments that join restaurant week, but any restaurant can take part in the event. Restaurant week appeals to locals and tourists alike, and most operations that participate see increased traffic during the occasion.

The History of Restaurant Week

A steak dinner with wine

Restaurant week was created in New York City in 1992 by Tim Zagat, the creator of the Zagat Survey, and Joe Baum, a famous New York restaurateur. The promotional event was originally lunch-only and was set to coincide with the Democratic National Convention to draw visitors, reporters, and politicians attending the event to local restaurants. The first restaurant week saw huge success, and it has since spread to cities large and small all over the country.

How Does Restaurant Week Work?

Restaurant week can take place any time of year, and timing varies by location. Typically, restaurant week is held in either early winter or sometime in spring, which are periods that are usually slower for restaurants. Additionally, while the original event was only one week long, nowadays most restaurant week events last anywhere from two weeks to a month. Many large cities will also hold multiple restaurant weeks per year. The event is typically organized by the chamber of commerce or local tourist organizations, so check out those resources to find out when your restaurant week is.

During restaurant week, many operations choose to offer several package meals at different price points. Providing several meal options is important because it makes guests with varying budgets feel welcome in your restaurant. A common practice is to have a menu that highlights three price packages. The most expensive option may include a better cut of meat, one cocktail per person, or a bottle of wine for the table. The cheapest option may be as simple as a signature soup or salad complemented by a dessert.

How Does Restaurant Week Benefit My Business?

Man on a computer

Restaurant week is a great way for businesses to draw in new customers, while also keeping existing customers satisfied and interested. However, many owners question if giving out a week of deals will actually help their operation or if the specials will eat up any potential profits. Here are a few reasons why joining your city's or region's restaurant week is a good idea:

  • Although you are offering your meals for reduced prices, restaurant week brings in more traffic than usual, which will make up for the lower dollar amount.
  • Restaurant week gives you a chance to impress customers with your food and service, and the experience may persuade some guests to come back and become repeat customers.
  • Taking part in restaurant week can boost your reputation as a high-quality and fashionable restaurant in your community.
  • Participating in your city's restaurant week can also help improve the local economy and build your city's reputation as a foodie destination, which will improve tourism.

How to Get the Most Out of Restaurant Week

Friends sitting around a table eating

Once you've joined your city's restaurant week, you want to make the most of the opportunity. During the event, guests are going to visit a lot of different restaurants, so you want to be the one that everyone remembers and comes back to after the occasion has ended. Here are a few tips for taking full advantage of your city's restaurant week to benefit your establishment:

1. Create a menu that helps you reach your goal. If your goal is to stand out from the crowd for your creativity, use the event as an occasion to serve experimental and unique dishes. If you're looking to appeal to new audiences and bring in new diners, you can fill your menu with your most popular dishes to wow guests.

2. Give customers more than they expect. Make sure that guests feel like VIPs from the moment they enter your operation. Additionally, creating an attractive table setting and having a clear menu can make the experience that much better.

3. Appeal to different target audiences. People of all ages, demographics, and walks of life take part in restaurant week, which gives you a chance to appeal to a wide audience. When you are creating your menu, you should also be considerate of dietary restrictions and offer at least one option for vegetarians and people with food allergies.

4. Partner with a local business. Consider teaming up with a local winery, brewery, or distillery and offer a complete food and drink package. You can also use fresh produce from local farms and markets. This is a great way to help another business increase its branding, and it will show that your restaurant is a true part of the community, which is what restaurant week is all about.

Starting out as a week-long event in New York City, restaurant week has grown into a nationwide phenomenon that draws millions of visitors to restaurants in cities all over the country. Restaurant week is an exciting, fun, stressful, and beneficial event all wrapped up in one. And whether you're a veteran to the tradition or this is your restaurant's first year participating in the event, there is something to gain from joining restaurant week.

Posted in: Advertising & Marketing | Management & Operation | By Richard Traylor
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