Last year Restaurant Week was moved to August after being held in November its first two years. The results: strong, according to Sally Littlefair Zarafonetis, Experience Grand Rapids’ project manager for the event. Strong enough that 2013 Restaurant Week is being held in August once again, kicking off last Wednesday and running until Aug. 24.
Last year, just a few days into the 11-day event, Doug Small, president of Experience GR, which co-sponsors the event with the Downtown Development Authority, said: “Many restaurants are reporting strong early sales, and we’re ecstatic.”
Jason Spaulding, owner and general manager of Brewery Vivant at 925 Cherry St. SE, reported, “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.”
Eric Albertson, owner of the SpeakEZ Lounge at Monroe Avenue and Trowbridge Street NW, and a relatively new restaurant last year, reported increased sales and new customers. “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.”
During what is often a slow period for restaurants, August seems to be the sweet spot for Restaurant Week. Thousands of guests are expected to dine out during this year’s event, which is expected to be even more successful in its fourth year.
More than 70 restaurants are participating, each offering a distinct three-course menu. At least 15 of those restaurants are first-time participants. Restaurants are offering three-course meals for $25 per person or two meals for $25.
“Restaurant Week is a great time to experience Grand Rapids and our thriving restaurant scene,” Small said. “The beauty of Restaurant Week Grand Rapids is that you can try a variety of restaurants all over the city over a long weekend or during the weekdays that won’t break the bank.”
Restaurants aren’t the only ones benefiting. The theme, farm-to-fork, ensures that local farms get in on the action. Almost every Restaurant Week menu on RestaurantWeekGR.com lists local farms where participating restaurants source their menu items. The move to August also means farms are fully stocked with the season’s freshest local vegetables, fruits and meats.
In addition, $1 from every Restaurant Week meal sold will be donated by the participating restaurants to a student scholarship fund at Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College.
“This year we hope to raise $20,000 to add to the fund,” Small said. “Many of Secchia Institute’s students decide to stay in the community and some of them develop into masterful chefs growing Grand Rapids culinary talent.”
Since 2010, participating restaurants have donated almost $60,000 to the Secchia Institute Student Scholarship Fund.
More than just eating, Restaurant Week is becoming a shared community experience. This year diners are encouraged to Instagram their food, dining pals, or other aspects of their night out for a chance to win one of 10 $50 gift cards for use at a participating Restaurant Week restaurant.
Grand Rapids mixologists are getting in on the fun, too, with two Cocktail of Choice contests. There are two categories of cocktails the public can sample and vote on: Best Creative Cocktail and Best Manhattan. To vote for your favorite cocktail, see RestaurantWeekGR.com under Cocktail Contest.People’s Choice winners will be revealed Aug. 24.
Maps showing all of the restaurants participating in Restaurant Week Grand Rapids 2013 are available at all Founders Bank & Trust branches and at Ferris Coffee and Nut at 227 Winter Ave. NW — or visit RestaurantWeekGR.com.