Arts & Entertainment, Food Service & Agriculture, and Travel & Tourism

Early returns are good for Restaurant Week

August 26, 2012
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If the early returns are an accurate indication, then the first-ever August Restaurant Week will be a success.

According to Sally Littlefair Zarafonetis, Experience Grand Rapids’ project manager for the annual event, many of the 62 restaurants taking part in the promotion have reported “strong business results” in the first few days.

“We didn’t know exactly how the community would respond to the new August dates for Restaurant Week this year. But in early reports on Restaurant Week sales, many restaurants are reporting strong early sales, and we’re ecstatic,” said Doug Small, president of Experience GR, which co-sponsors the event with the Downtown Development Authority.

After running for several years in November, the third Restaurant Week was moved to August to accommodate the International Wine, Beer and Food Festival and a new convention that will be held at DeVos Place in November. Most downtown restaurant owners favored the change of dates for the 11-day event as the summer months usually make up their slowest period of business.

“We are enormously pleased with Restaurant Week. Dinner sales have more than doubled in our first two days of the event. Guests are raving about our food, and we are getting a lot of first-timers,” said Eric Albertson, owner of the relatively new SpeakEZ Lounge at Monroe Avenue and Trowbridge Street NW.

Jason Spaulding, owner and general manager of Brewery Vivant at 925 Cherry St. SE, had equally good news. “We sold out of our Restaurant Week menu during our opening nights. Due to this, we doubled our preparations going into the weekend. We have also been getting amazing feedback on our unique menu and that makes us really happy.”

Craig Smith, the club manager of the Watermark, Stonewater and Sunnybrook country clubs, told Experience GR that activity has been good at all three restaurants. “Our reservations are up 10 percent and our volume is up, too. We’re getting great comments on the food and event,” he said.

“Our sales were higher over the first few nights of Restaurant Week than our opening night, and we are getting many calls for reservations,” said Sarah Flikkema, general manager of the new Radix Tavern at 1420 Lake Drive SE.

Charley’s Crab, 63 Market Ave. SW, Rose’s on Reeds Lake, 540 Lakeside Dr. SE, and Timbers Inn, 6555 Belding Road NE, reported better-than-average sales during Restaurant Week’s new timeframe. And Jenna Arcidiacono, executive chef and co-owner of Amore Trattoria Italiana at 5080 Alpine Ave. NW, said, “Our first two nights of Restaurant Week were great. People can really taste the farm-fresh difference.”

Farm fresh was the theme for this summer’s Restaurant Week. Chefs of participating restaurants used locally grown, produced and raised vegetables, fruits and meats in their three-course meals, offered for $25. Smaller establishments, including taverns that serve food, offered two meals for $25.

Now that Restaurant Week has ended, Experience GR will be busy compiling the final sales number for the event that ran Aug. 15 through last Saturday. Sales from last year’s event totaled $1.25 million. Sales for the first Restaurant Week fell just short of $1.2 million. The latter two events were held in November.

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