Restaurant Week not weak at all

November 21, 2010
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Although the final tally wasn’t in yet a few days after the first Restaurant Week ended, it’s a sure thing that a second event will be held next year.

Anecdotal evidence indicated early last week that Restaurant Week, a 10-day event that featured 53 local eateries offering three-course meals for $20.10, was an unmitigated success.

Experience Grand Rapids and the Downtown Development Authority were the founding sponsors of the promotion. Experience GR President Doug Small told the Business Journal that restaurants reported strong sales during the event.

“Just one example: A restaurant said they averaged 100 Restaurant Week dinners a day, which would be 1,000 over the 10-day period, which is phenomenal for one restaurant. And I heard upwards of 1,400 and 1,500 (meals) at Bistro Bella Vita. So there are two restaurants combined that did nearly 2,500 Restaurant Week dinners,” said Small.

He said another owner told him the event made this month the best November for sales in the restaurant’s history, and The Acorn Grille at Thousand Oaks and the Gilmore Collection of restaurants also reported good sales.

Small also said the overall revenue to the participating restaurants could be higher than the total tab for the specific Restaurant Week meals because some diners who came in for the promotion may have brought guests who ordered from the higher-priced regular menus. If so, “the revenues for Restaurant Week are going to be much higher,” Small said of all the dining that took place during the event.

Reports were that some diners couldn’t make reservations during the promotion, especially for Friday and Saturday nights, with some establishments booked full. Other locations didn’t take reservations.

“I did hear that it was tough to make reservations on Friday and Saturday nights. I feel bad for those that couldn’t get in with reservations, but I feel good that our program was successful and that there was such an overwhelming response that time slots just weren’t available,” said Small.

Three of Mark and Michele Sellers’ restaurants — HopCat, The Viceroy and Stella’s Lounge — took part in the promotion. Going into the final two days of the event, Mark Sellers said sales were good.

“It’s going very well. Our food business has picked up a lot in the past week because of that. Not to the extent that ArtPrize helped us, but still, it’s been a positive,” he said.

Small said Sally Littlefair Zarafonetis was compiling the sales reports from the participating restaurants and would have a final sales tally soon. A dollar from each Restaurant Week meal sold goes to the Secchia Institute of Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College.

When Small unveiled his idea for the event last April, he said he wanted to market November as wine and food month in Grand Rapids, and tie Restaurant Week into the International Wine and Food Festival held by the Convention and Arena Authority and Showplace Inc. at DeVos Place last week.

Small also confirmed that Restaurant Week will be around next year based on responses he has received from restaurant owners, event sponsors and the dining public.

“We’ve got people saying, ‘Why don’t you do it for the entire month of November?’ We’ve got people saying, ‘Do it again this summer.’ The encouragement from all aspects, from the sponsors to the restaurants to the public that enjoyed the meals, has been very encouraging,” said Small.

“So, yes, we will do it again next year, and the details to that are still unknown.”

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