On a typical day, Asian sea bass at Main Street’s Mélange costs a cool $29. The Restaurant Week special, though, was $28 and included three courses.
It’s natural to assume that such low prices would discourage restaurants to participate in Restaurant Week, and Laura Wanke, general manager and owner of Mélange, confirmed she experienced a slight dip in profits. However, she said the huge wave of customers makes Restaurant Week an advantageous marketing tool for attracting a new clientele.
“We’re going to take the increased volume for that one week definitely over the reduced profitability,” Wanke said.
The weeks following the holiday season in January are often tough for restaurants; customers’ wallets and waistlines have to recover from present shopping and Christmas cookie-munching.
Gratzi manager Luke Magnini said Restaurant Week gives the establishment a boost it typically doesn’t experience this time of year. He added that restaurants rarely see many customers in early January, as most restaurant-goers are recovering from the holidays.
“It’s not that much of a difference as far as revenue wise per person, but it’s a great boost to get people in as in otherwise would normally be a slow week for us,” he said.
Other restaurants affirmed that the publicity and low-prices of Restaurant Week pleases both regular and first-time guests. Magnini said Restaurant Week goers often become long-term guests.
“We find a lot of guests that have become regulars and this is kind of their week to explore and to see a lot of the new restaurants, but also to rediscover some of the old ones like Gratzi,” Magnini said.
Lucia Lagoy, assistant manager at Café Zola, said the nature of Restaurant Week welcomes new customers, especially wallet-conscious students.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to come to our restaurant who are interested in it but have other favorite spots and might not try it because they weren’t sure about the cuisine or you know they just wanted to get a sampling of our food without committing to a full dining experience,” Lagoy said.
Restaurant Week provides a way for restaurateurs to experiment with their menu offerings. Café Zola featured a new menu and assessed their customers’ reactions, Lagoy said.
“It was good for us to have sort of a trial run in that sense, work things out, see what people liked, to see what was really popular,” Lagoy said.
Although Restaurant Week is centered on noshing, Wanke said it’s also a way to bring the community together and entice visitors to come downtown during the frigid winter months.
“It’s a great exposure where the public gets to come in and see us and maybe didn’t even know we existed,” Wanke said. “It’s a good community thing for restaurants throughout the area to join together and showcase what we all offer at a reasonably priced point.”