Local Restaurant Week is here and runs through March 26.
Since the concept got started in 2009, when the industry was suffering from an economic downturn, it has grown from 60 restaurants to 218 this week, with 21 new participants, including some craft breweries. Even if you dined out for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day this week, you would barely put a dent in the offerings, which are priced at $20.17. (Some offer meals for two at that price, while others are charging $30.17 or $40.17 for fine dining.)
Here are five tasty tidbits from event coordinator Christa Hobart that make great dinner conversation and can also help you map out a game plan for a week of sumptuous eating.
1. Local Restaurant Week contributes $8 million to the local economy.
This week is important to the local economy and to the profitability of area restaurants.
"We estimate the event has about an $8 million annual impact on the local economy. The money spent at locally owned and operated restaurants continues to circulate through the local economy more so than dollars spent at a national chain," Hobart said. "It is not uncommon for participating restaurants to have their best weeks of the year during this event. Similarly, the distributors that deliver to the restaurants also see a significant boost in business as a result of the event."
2. You have more choices than ever.
The number of participating restaurants used be to capped, but it no longer is.
"We used to cap the event at 200 restaurants, but in the last year we decided to do away with that, because we were starting to turn down brand-new restaurants because we were full. We had to turn them away. This just did not seem to be in the spirit of the event," Hobart said.
"The week is all about shining the spotlight on the 'Mom and Pop,' locally owned and operated independent restaurants of Western New York. We don’t want to leave anyone out who wants to join in the celebration."
3. Only one restaurant has participated in every Local Restaurant Week.
Seabar has been involved ever since the start, Hobart said. The top five, in terms of participation: Seabar, 17 times; Shango Bistro & Wine Bar, 16 times; The Roycroft Inn, 16 times; Rick’s on Main, 15 times; and Marco’s Italian Restaurant, 15 times.
4. Our Local Restaurant Week is one of the largest in the country.
Western New York's Local Restaurant Week is among the top five largest in the United States, Hobart said.
"The only events larger than ours are New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C.," she said. "This speaks volumes to our rich food culture in Western New York, as our market is considerably smaller than the other cities. We are also the only one that shines a spotlight solely on locally owned and operated independent restaurants with no chain restaurants or national franchises."
5. This year you can book some tables online.
Some restaurants now allow you to make reservations right through the Local Restaurant Week website.
"Many of our participating restaurants have chosen to work with OpenTable," Hobart said. "Between our last two events, we saw the number of reservations made through our website and OpenTable double. As always, people can simply call the restaurant directly and make a reservation that way too. Reservations, while not required, are always recommended during Local Restaurant Week."