Local Restaurant Week wrapped up recently and for newcomers like Eckl's at 4936 Ellicott Road in Orchard Park, it was a win-win. The longtime restaurant, founded in 1934 and known for its roast beef, was closed for about a year before reopening in the fall of 2016. This was their first shot at Local Restaurant Week and general manager Ted Smith said they'll definitely be back for more. In fact, he recommends that all restaurants take part. And he's using Local Restaurant Week excitement to kick off expansion plans as he looks for new menu items to keep the crowds coming.
Question: How did Local Restaurant Week impact Eckl's?
Smith: It was amazing. If you look at Eckl's history, we've been here forever, but now we have new owners. As a new restaurant taking part, we were very surprised that we were very, very busy. It was wonderful. Mr. Eckl didn't embrace change. As for me, I didn't even know that Local Restaurant Week existed until I got an email from Christa Hobart (Local Restaurant Week coordinator). It started slow on Monday, but Tuesday to Saturday we hit record numbers.
Q: How much busier was it than a typical week and what were your best selling menu items?
A: It was two times, or twice as much as a regular week. I'd say we did 75 to 100 percent more. Early in the week, it was our petite filet mignon that was popular and then the seafood combo caught on later in the week. But it was 2-1 with the filet outselling the seafood.
Q: How important is it for you to see a boost in business like this?
A: For me, if you're having a flat line year or a dull year and this comes your way, you have to take part. It's free advertising and yes you have to discount your prices, but I'm the GM and I'll tell you I saw so many new faces that I've never seen in the past five months since we reopened. I have nothing but good things to say.
Q: So for the most part, how have things been going since Eckl's reopened several months ago?
A: We have Eckl's faithful clientele. They were happy as heck that we reopened, but then it got quiet after the holidays. So this is a great shot in the arm and I hope that more people come in and see what Eckl's is all about.
Q: What do you have planned for the future?
A: We are working on an expansion once the town gives us the OK. We have a small kitchen. It's actually a utility style kitchen for the number of meals that we serve. We're also looking for new ideas and smaller portions and new appetizers.