(Restaurant Week is a great way to explore creative culinary creations at Mermaid Winery on Shore Drive. Photo courtesy of Mermaid Winery.)
By Jeff Maisey
Restaurant Weeks serve as a promotion for dining establishments during what would otherwise be a slow period and are also an ideal way for diners to experience and explore favorite restaurants or newcomers at an affordably fixed price for two and three-course meals.
Last January, a recently opened Virginia Beach restaurant participated and then the pandemic shutdown occurred. Thanks to the citywide dining promotion customers kept coming back.
“Ryan Hines, co-owner & managing partner of The Rustic Spoon, opened the restaurant on February 12, 2020 — days before the pandemic shutdown,” said Martha Davenport, executive director, Virginia Beach Restaurant Association. “This was a brand new business, just opening, and now facing a pandemic five weeks later. Needless to say, the first year was very challenging. In 2021 the business joined the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association and participated in Restaurant Week. As a result, the restaurant gained exposure in the community, revenues increased, new faces came in the door, and the base of loyal customers grew. I would call this a success story.”
Both the Downtown Norfolk Council (DNC) and Virginia Beach Restaurant Association (VBRA) present simultaneous winter Restaurant Weeks — January 17-23. Downtown Norfolk’s begins January 16.
Downtown Norfolk’s Restaurant Week is exclusive to dining establishments operating within the heart of the city’s nightlife zone. The promotion is one of many keys to the branding of Downtown.
“We’ve been producing Restaurant Week since 2006 and it is an initiative that is a proven success that not only economically supports our Downtown restaurants but further establishes Downtown Norfolk as a culinary destination with an abundance of chef-owned and independent restaurants,” explained Jessica Kliner, marketing director, Downtown Norfolk Council. “While the Restaurant Week format is not something that works for every restaurant downtown, the ones that do participate rely on this promotion year after year to drive business to their establishment and also to introduce new customers to their restaurant that often become regulars. Todd Jurich’s Bistro has been participating in Restaurant Week since 2006, which is quite a testament to the value of the event.”
Where Norfolk’s Downtown is a geographically small area to promote with a focused identity, the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association has a broader mission given the size of the city and its many pockets of vibrancy ranging from the Oceanfront, Town Center, and Hilltop to Shore Drive, Strawbridge and neighborhood-focused sections of Kempsville and Pungo.
“Virginia Beach is a large city, but that adds to its charm and character,” Davenport said. “Our geography and demographics challenge and support our restaurants to take culinary risks which they would not considered if located in another city.
“Expanding on social opportunities, through Restaurant Week, we support the restaurant’s tie to the community,” Davenport continued. “These businesses are the heartbeat of their neighborhoods. They provide shelter, a warm meal, the place “where everybody knows your name,”,jokes and laughter, a consoling shoulder, and a sense of belonging that is so missing since the pandemic.”
And speaking of pandemic, both Restaurant Weeks are certain to both challenge and reward participating businesses. The DNC and VBRA take this to heart.
“As we have had to do with everything during pandemic, changes were made to adapt, such as offering Restaurant Week menus to go and for delivery during the height of the pandemic,” said Kliner. “We also saw the community rally behind the Restaurants with their patronage during Restaurant Week and all year-round.”
“Today it is more important than ever to promote and support these traditional small businesses in your community,” shared Davenport. “For many restaurants, this week provides a revenue boost to help them survive the long winter months, a traditionally slow period for patrons. Although, they are still struggling with staffing, all they ask is a little patience, and for that you get a great meal.”
To make reservations for these two important Restaurant Week promotions visit www.dineinvb.com and www.downtownnorfolk.org.