Modeled on similar events in Charlottesville and other larger cities, Restaurant Week offered seven days of good food and good fun. During the week, diners ordered off special three-course, prix-fixe menus.
It’s too early to know the full economic impact of Restaurant Week, but all signs point to a big success. 2,066 prix-fixe dinners were sold over seven days.
“Restaurant Week 2011 went very well,” Wagner says. “It got people thinking about choosing Staunton as a dining destination. It raised the city’s visibility, especially among people in other communities who might not normally have us on their radar screen for eating out.”
Economic impact numbers are still being crunched, but preliminary sales reports show a spike in restaurant revenue during the week of March 21-27. Jeff Ramsey of the Bistro reports that his restaurant was up 36.24% in sales during the week compared to the same time last year.
Local residents and those of surrounding towns took advantage of the prix-fixe deals, reportedly driving to Staunton from well outside the immediate area, including Richmond, Virginia Beach, and Northern Virginia. “Culinary tourism is a huge, huge deal,” says Sheryl Wagner, Director of Tourism. “Higher traffic in restaurants means higher traffic in other downtown establishments – including hotels, retail stores and theaters. It’s a boost for the local economy.”
A poll of the restaurateurs who attended the wrap-up meeting indicated that overall, they were both surprised by the turnout and pleased by the opportunity to attract new customers to Staunton.
Zynodoa opened up all seven days of the week, and was booked solid every night. “We saw a high percentage of new customers, including many people who came from Charlottesville and Richmond, and we regarded it as an excellent opportunity to showcase what we do best,” says Jeff Goode of Zynodoa. “Sales were very strong all week long.”
“We were a little skeptical at first that Restaurant Week would succeed, but business was great – we were up the whole week and we’ll definitely participate again,” says Ian Boden of Staunton Grocery.
Chris Signore of the Stonewall Jackson Hotel said, “Restaurant Week gave us a lot of exposure – especially to people who didn’t even know we had a restaurant.”
It’s all part of a long term strategy to put Staunton on the map for foodies. Visitors tend to associate Staunton with history, architecture, and the arts. But in recent years, there has been an explosion of interest in the city’s culinary offerings.
“Restaurant Week gives Staunton the opportunity to showcase its recent successes, such as being singled out as ‘one of the country’s best-kept foodie secrets’ in the March issue of Baltimore Magazine and as “a foodie dream town” in this month’s Southern Living, says Wagner.
Asked about what the organizers learned from their first Restaurant Week, Wagner says, “the promotion was a big success, but it was put together fairly quickly. Next year, we’ll promote it well in advance and target Richmond and Northern Virginia audiences.”
Participating Restaurants included:
· Baja Bean Company
· Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery
· Byers Street Bistro
· Emilio’s Italian Restaurant
· Mockingbird Artisan Fare & Roots Music
· Mill Street Grill
· Sorrel’s Dining at the Stonewall Jackson
· Staunton Grocery
· Taste of India