Staunton Restaurant Week excites
Following the success of Charlottesville's Restaurant Week, the folks over in Staunton approached the Hook for guidance on starting their own. We were happy to oblige. Moreover, Staunton's Visitors Bureau and Downtown Association embraced and promoted the March 21-27 event. The result? A veritable feeding frenzy.
“Restaurant Week 2011 went very well," says Sheryl Wagner, Staunton's tourism director. "It got people thinking about choosing Staunton as a dining destination."
Indeed, 2,066 prix-fixe dinners were served during the week, and some restaurant owners and chefs reported a nearly 40 percent uptick in business. With a dollar from each meal headed to charity, that means the event raised $2,066 for the Valley Mission, which helps the homeless.
Jeff Goode, owner of Zynodoa, says his restaurant broke records for weekly guest traffic as well as gross sales. Over at Staunton Grocery, chef Ian Boden says he was initially "a little skeptical" of the idea, but a week-long packed dining room cured him of that. Indeed, Wagner says that the whole city benefited from the event, as folks from surrounding areas– including Charlottesville– made the trek. Plans are already in the works for next year's event.
“Culinary tourism is a huge, huge deal,” says Wagner. “Higher traffic in restaurants means higher traffic in other downtown establishments– including hotels, retail stores, and theaters. It’s a boost for the local economy.”
Of course, Staunton doesn't have the sheer number of restaurants in Charlottesville, but they are surely competing on quality. Indeed, the March issue of Baltimore Magazine singled out Staunton as "one of the country's best-kept foodie secrets," and the April issue of Southern Living dubs the Queen City "a foodie dream town.”
Game on, Charlottesville.