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WVL Spring2016 pg30 .pdf

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discover ››
Bridge Road Bistro
has participated in
all three Charleston
Restaurant Weeks.

Generating Buzz

Restaurant Week takes off in Charleston.
january is an awful time for the restaurant
business. The weather is bad, everyone is
still clinging to New Year’s resolutions,
and no one wants to spend money after
those Christmastime credit card statements
arrive. Big restaurant chains can survive this
slump without worry. But for locally owned
restaurants, several weeks of slow business
can be financially catastrophic.
That’s why the Charleston-based restaurant
supplier Buzz Food Service decided to step in
and help its local food scene. The company
launched Charleston Restaurant Week in
2014 with eight restaurants offering special
menus featuring three-course meals for $30.
“We thought anything that would get people
30 wvl • spring 2016

written by zack



“A lot of people don’t stop to think,
what is a chain restaurant and what
is a local restaurant. There’s a lot of
room for us to make an impression on
the people of Charleston. The line of
people that wait outside Olive Garden
could probably support three more
restaurants downtown. I feel like this
promotion is a step toward that goal.”
“What we really want to do is
introduce new customers to local
restaurants. The hope is they try
something they haven’t tried before,
love it, appreciate the quality of the
service, and come to the conclusion,
‘This is where I want to come for my
“I think part of the why Restaurant
Week is a success is, eating in a
crowded restaurant makes the food
taste better. We’re so spoiled in
Charleston—most Fridays you can
get home from work and then decide,
where do we want to go to dinner?
You don’t have to worry about a
reservation. To have a week where
you have to plan ahead, it changes
the experience.”
“We have a lot of people who
contribute time and labor, as a labor
of love. We’ve got a volunteer who
designed a great website. We’d
never met. He just said ‘I thought you
could use a website—and sent me a
link. Things like that make me love



eating out, that
would be good
for restaurants,”
says Dickinson
Gould, president
of Buzz.
It’s a model
that had worked
in many other
cities. Gould
had his first
experience with
a restaurant week
in Washington,
D.C., when he
was fresh out
of college and
strapped for cash.
“It just made
an impression
on me. It was
a cool way to
show people
what you had to
offer without the
restriction of that
really expensive
meal,” he says.
The promotion
worked in Charleston, too. Diners
came out in droves that first year,
snatching up every available reservation
at some restaurants. Since then, Buzz
Food Service has organized two more
Restaurant Weeks. The most recent, held
in January 2016, featured 20 participating
restaurants, which sold more than 10,000 meals
and contributed an estimated $500,000 to
the city’s economy. “They get slammed, but
it’s great. We’ve had clients tell us it’s the
best week, financially, in their restaurant’s
history,” Gould says.
Gould expects the event to keep growing.
“I’ve read editorials where people feel like the
model is played out. Not here. I meet people
all the time who say ‘I just heard about
Restaurant Week!’ As more and more people
become aware of it, I know we can keep two
dozen restaurants very busy for this otherwise
cold week in January,” he says.

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