Restaurant Week revs up typically slow season

Marie Havenga • Feb 17, 2017 at 1:00 PM

A wintertime taste tour not only gives diners an opportunity to sample local cuisine, it helps boost business in downtown Grand Haven during a typically slow season.

Grand Haven eateries will run lunch and dinner specials during the fifth annual Restaurant Week, which runs today through Feb. 25. The event is sponsored by Grand Haven Main Street.

Stefanie Herder, marketing and communications manager for the Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Restaurant Week is a popular winter event for both residents and restaurant owners.

“Events like this in the colder months are an awesome way for visitors and residents to beat the winter blues and enjoy all the great things the Grand Haven area has to offer,” she said. “Who doesn't love trying new food and beer? This is a perfect opportunity to find new favorites and support local businesses. I'm excited to try something new for lunch every day next week.”

Matt Varley, owner of Righteous Cuisine in Grand Haven’s Centertown, said Restaurant Week boosts his business by about 20 percent.

“It has seemed to definitely stir up quite a bit of business for February,” he said. “We get quite a bit busier. We've done Restaurant Week every year since we opened (December 2014).”

On a grander scale, Varley thinks such exposure helps long-term business, as well.

“To be honest, we have been a lot busier this year than last year,” he said. “I think it helps. ... I'm happy that something like this is going on in the winter.”

Tim Riley, general manager of the Kirby House in downtown Grand Haven, said Restaurant Week is also an opportunity for local restaurants to test new offerings.

“We'll be serving some new items that may make our spring/summer menu and some existing items that we've tweaked a bit,” he said. “It's an opportunity to test-run some stuff and get the guests to give some feedback on it.”

Other than a spike at Valentine's Day, February — far removed from the foot traffic of a Grand Haven summer — can be a slow month for local restaurants.

“We're always looking to build what we call the ‘shoulder seasons,’” Riley said. “It's also an opportunity for local people who avoid downtown during the summer because of the craziness to come back downtown.”

Grand Haven Main Street Executive Director Diane Sheridan said surveys of local restaurant owners do indeed show that Restaurant Week increases their sales.

“It helps bolster our mid-winter season,” she said.

Joy Gaasch, president of the Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven-Spring Lake-Ferrysburg, said such events bring vibrancy to the city.

“Adding events and activities in ‘shoulder seasons’ and in the winter is a focus for many organizations in our community,” she said. “Ensuring that there are unique and interesting things to do is what brings customers back over and over again.”

As a bonus, the third annual Craft Beer Festival runs from 2-8 p.m. Saturday at 11 downtown establishments. New this year is the Home Brew Competition from 1-3 p.m. at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum, 200 Washington Ave. The winner will have his or her recipe brewed and on tap at Odd Side Ales.

For a complete lineup of participating restaurants in Restaurant Week, visit www.downtown.gh.com.

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