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Restaurant Week’s tally tasty for SICE

August event set a new mark and raised money for culinary scholarship fund.

November 1, 2013
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Although the fourth annual event didn’t sell as many featured meals as last year, revenue to the promotion’s participating restaurants was up from a year ago.

Experience Grand Rapids President Doug Small told the Business Journal that what might seem at first as a contradiction is fact. He explained that during his organization’s annual promotion, Restaurant Week diners bought fewer of the specially priced three-course meals for $25 but placed more orders from the restaurants’ regular menus, which gave the businesses higher tabs.

Small said 17,135 Restaurant Week meals were ordered and consumed over the 11-day event, a drop of roughly 3,000 from last year. But 73 restaurants took part in this year’s event — 10 more than last year and the most in the promotion’s history. Twenty-nine of the 73 were located downtown.

Small estimated 30,000 diners took part in Restaurant Week, as some go out to eat two or three times during the promotion. Total sales again topped $1 million.

Because of those positive results, Small said he hopes the business owners keep the event in August, which is normally slow for local restaurants. Experience GR moved Restaurant Week to August last year from the November dates of its first two years.

Restaurant Week also made another contribution to the student scholarship fund of the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College. Each restaurant sets aside $1 from every featured meal sold, and this year’s effort raised $17,135, bringing the four-year total to $74,670.

“The Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at GRCC is one of the top 20 culinary schools in the country and the students who attend the school receive a wonderful education, with many of them deciding to stay in the community to work in the restaurant industry,” said Dan Gelder, the school’s education program director.

Three of the students Gelder spoke of were awarded $1,000 scholarships from the fund. Megan Amante of Mitten Brewing Co., Jaclyn Spencer of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and Heather Anderson of Green Wagon Farms were the recipients.

“By training talented chefs and bringing in internationally recognized culinary experts who participate in our culinary competitions and programs, this adds to the distinction of Grand Rapids as a growing culinary destination,” said Gelder.

That comment from Gelder is the underlying reason Small initiated Restaurant Week four years ago. As head of the county’s destination marketer, he wanted to put the area’s restaurants and its food production on the national map. By making the event an August-harvest promotion, he put more of an emphasis on the local food industry and farm-to-plate.

“Restaurant Week Grand Rapids’ strength is that it communicates to local residents, seasonal visitors and convention goers that we have a sophisticated, authentic and diverse culinary scene,” said Small.

“Celebrating an event like this year after year during the peak of the summer harvest season revitalizes our local restaurants, celebrates their farm-to-work identity and casts the spotlight on many great chefs that showcase their talents during Restaurant Week.”

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