WILDWOOD — Restaurant Week kicks off Sunday, and organizers are hoping the growing event will bring in more tourists as the town begins to slowly empty as Labor Day approaches.
“It brings in people,” said Wally Lerro, owner of the Blue Water Grille. “It brings them into Wildwood and it helps the Wildwoods’ businesses.”
Restaurant weeks got their start in New York City in 1992 and have become popular across the country as a way to introduce diners to new restaurants with the help with a prix fixe meal.
Lerro said the two weeks held in Wildwood — one in June, the second in August — come during what can be slow times for businesses on the island, and it builds relationships with new customers.
Brendan Sciarra, owner of the Dogtooth Bar & Grill said the week is also a time when he offers new menu items. “We try to do something a little different,” he said.
He has participated in the Restaurant Week events each year. The upcoming Wildwoods Restaurant Week begins Sunday and runs through Friday; two dozen local restaurants are participating.
John Siciliano, executive director of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, said the authority supports the week’s marketing efforts because it adds to the island’s tourism industry.
The event helps local businesses and keeps people coming into town even with schools starting earlier and the season winding down, Siciliano said.
“From our standpoint, it’s a tourism type of event that has an impact on not only the restaurants, but other businesses,” he said.
Atlantic City Restaurant Week was held in March had 75 participating restaurants. The event has proven popular; 19 restaurants extended their special menus for a second week.
Cape May City has been holding its event since 2009, with nearly 30 restaurants participating.
“We do it because we love Cape May, and we love food,” said Jessica Keeler, website manager for Cape Publishing and event coordinator of Cape May’s Restaurant Week, held each June.
“A lot of the restaurants put some of their best stuff on the menu,” Keeler said of the offerings.
The week’s success, she said, is measured anecdotally through positive feedback from visitors and restaurant owners alike.
“I was told by a participating restaurant that they people who came for restaurant week had people come back less than a week later,” she said, explaining that the week draws new customers in June, a quiet time for the resort.
The event partnered with a bed and breakfast this year, offering special rates for restaurant week participants.
The first-ever New York City restaurant was created as a one-time culinary event to welcome the 1992 Democratic National Convention.
“Over the past 20 years, the number of participating restaurants has grown from 95 to more than 300,” said Emily Mayrath of nycgo.com.
While the summer event, which runs Aug. 13 to Sept 3 is ongoing, Mayrath said for the winter restaurant event there were almost 90,000 reservations made.
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