What is Restaurant Week?

A Popular Restaurant Promotion

••• Melodi2

Restaurant week is clever promotional strategies dreamed up by the founder of Zagat restaurant guides. Restaurant Week varies from place to place, but typically January 25 marks the start in many places around the country, including New York City, where the idea of Restaurant Week was born. Established to help increase business for restaurants, Restaurant Week has grown in popularity since its inception in 1992. It offers many benefits for restaurant owners and can help increase sales during otherwise slow periods. 

The First Restaurant Week

The first Restaurant Week was thought up by Tim Zagat and Joe Baum. Tim Zagat is the founder of Zagat Survey which covers restaurant guides in cities all over the world. The late Joe Baum was a top restaurateur, creating such famous dining rooms as Windows on the World and the Rainbow Room. The pair planned the first Restaurant Week to coincide with the Democratic Convention. The week long event was such a success it has grown to encompass four weeks in New York City, instead of one week. The concept has also spread across the country to cities and states, who participate in their own version.

How Restaurant Week Works

Restaurant Week varies from place to place. The general concept is that local restaurants partner with local tourist organizations or chambers of commerce to promote a week of lunch and dinner specials. Other partners may include local businesses, banks and food vendors. Restaurants offer reduced prices for a prix fixe menu, the idea being that what they lose in check averages they gain in sales volume. Some restaurants report increased volume as high as 40% during Restaurant Week.

Why Restaurant Week is Good for Business

Restaurants aren’t the only businesses to benefit from Restaurant Week. It helps increase tourism, therefore increasing businesses for hotels, stores and other local businesses. Cities and states can use Restaurant Week as a platform to showcase their area and build their culinary reputation. In New York City where there are plenty of restaurants who don’t need promotion, such as Mesa Grill or Brasserie 8, many still join in Restaurant Week, recognizing the common good it offers.

Create Your Own Restaurant Week

If your area doesn’t have an established restaurant week, here are some tips for getting one in place:

  • Plan for a slow time during the year. In New York City, Restaurant Week runs for two weeks in January and two weeks in July.
  • Be consistent. All the participating restaurants should follow the same guidelines concerning a set price (now is not the time to undersell your competition) and similar menus (two course, three course, etc…). Pricing for Restaurant Week needs to accommodate both low and high end restaurants.
  • Offer your best food. The idea behind Restaurant Week is to showcase your restaurant’s food to customers who may not eat there regularly. Offer a house favorite or a chef specialty.

Restaurant Week is a great promotional idea that can kick -start a slow time of year. And who doesn’t love that? Restaurant Week is a collaborative effort between restaurants and it's important that everyone participating agree on timing, price points and marketing. Areas who host a restaurant week have the potential to grow it into a wide scale event that will have a ripple effect beyond the restaurant industry.