Triangle Restaurant Week is celebrating 10 years with a record-setting number of restaurants participating this year: 99 and counting.
For those who do not know, Triangle Restaurant Week, which starts Monday, is a week-long regional event during which restaurants offer special deals for lunch or dinner. I talked to co-founder Damon Butler last week about the impetus behind Triangle Restaurant Week and its evolution during the past decade.
Butler explained that the event is closely tied to the launch of the public relations agency, Triangle Blvd, that he and co-founder, John Mason, started at about the same time. They noticed that restaurant weeks were popular in bigger cities and that other two- to three-city areas, like Dallas and Ft. Worth and Minneapolis and St. Paul, did joint events. They saw an opportunity to promote the area’s restaurant scene while also promoting their new firm.
“What better way to bring people together than via food,” Butler said.
He added that they wanted to see an event that promoted the region as a whole, as opposed to events that only encouraged diners to venture to Raleigh, Durham or Chapel Hill, or to a standalone affair.
“Rarely do you see the Triangle come together for a particular event,” Butler said.
In 2007, Butler said they started working on the idea, recruiting restaurants and approaching county tourism agencies for financial support (although none came until this year). They held the first restaurant week in 2008.
That first year, 26 restaurants, mainly in Raleigh, participated in Triangle Restaurant Week. This year, they hope to break 100. Over the years, it has pretty much followed the same format, although prices have changed: a three-course lunch for $15 or a three-course dinner for $20 to $35. A $10 lunch deal and the $35 dinner were added more recently to attract more restaurants.
Much to Butler’s consternation, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance started Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week a few years after the first Triangle Restaurant Week.
Triangle Restaurant Week not only promotes the region but also encourages people to dine out during what are typically two of the slowest times of the year for restaurants. The events are always the last week of January and first week in June.
It’s obviously good for business. For Eschelon Experiences, which owns Cameron Bar and Grill, Bare Bones and other restaurants in Raleigh and Durham, chief operating officer Tara Owens said they see an average of 150 people order off the Triangle Restaurant Week menu at each of their restaurants. It’s unclear if those are new reservations or people already planning to dine there but opting for the special menu, Owens said. Regardless, she said, the event generates between $3,000 to $6,000 in sales at each restaurant during each event.
Beyond increased sales, Triangle Restaurant Week also offers chefs and restaurants the chance to test new dishes on their menus. Owens said the Kaiseki bento, a Japanese-style dinner box, is still on the menu at Raleigh’s Mura because it was so popular during a recent restaurant week. “It is a great testing ground,” she said.
Butler is proud of what they have been able to create with the event after 10 years: “Now it’s one of the largest foodie events in the Southeast.”
Triangle Restaurant Week celebrates 10 years this January with seven days of dining deals at local restaurants.
From Jan. 23-29, participating restaurants will offer a 3-course lunch for $10 to $15, and a three-course dinner for $20 to $35. (The $10 lunch and $35 dinner are new this year.) The price is per person and does not include beverages, tax or gratuity.
Some of the confirmed restaurants include 42nd Street Oyster Bar, Azitra, Basan, Bleu Olive, Buku: Global Street Food, Edwards Mill Bar & Grill, Cameron Bar and Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, Irregardless Cafe, Metro 8 Steakhouse, Plates Kitchen, Coquette Brasserie, Kipos Greek Taverna, Tuscan Blu, Nofo, Garland, H Street Kitchen and more.