Until February 11, patrons can grab two-course lunches or three-course dinners for special prices. Thirteen local eateries are participating this year.
Organizers from the Grand Street Business Improvement District (BID) said the event began five years ago in response to the changing nature of the neighborhood. Now with 50 bars and restaurants along or near the Grand Street corridor, the area has become a hub for local commercial activity.
“It’s about more than just somebody going in and getting a restaurant special,” said Homer Hill, executive director of the Grand Street BID. “It’s about a larger awareness of the restaurant community we have that’s strong and diverse.”
Not only do participating restaurants see an uptick in sales, but it’s also a way to highlight local eateries to both community members and people coming from outside the neighborhood, Hill said.
The majority of businesses on Grand Street are owner-operated. In the economic development world, they are considered “micro-businesses” because they have small budgets and staffs.
“This is an opportunity for us to provide supplemental marketing to help them compete with larger chain restaurants,” he said.
Hill added that he hopes the restaurant week will have a “trickle-down effect” on other businesses in the area.
“Some restaurants have seen double in sales in that week, if not higher,” said Natalie Mendell, program director for the BID. “Some have seen brand new customers.”
Mendell attributes the week’s success to not only increased press coverage, but also the participation from community members who support mom-and-pop shops and local restaurants.
The BID plans the event two months before it takes place, and takes a hands-on approach, working with restaurants directly. Mendell said she has even helped some restaurants set their menus.
To promote restaurant week, the organization creates postcards, posters and other promotional materials to hang up around town. They use social media marketing to get the word out on the Internet.
Mendell said this year, they sent out mailers to more than 1,400 area residents as well.
After the event, they survey every restaurant to collect data and receive feedback. During last year’s summer restaurant week, local eateries saw a 92 percent increase in business during the week.
They also track press mentions and social media web page views because the menus are posted on the BID’s website. Last summer, their restaurant week reached nearly 24,000 users on Facebook and 8,900 people on Twitter.
They got 3,527 pageviews on their website, and 21 press mentions.
“It always goes up,” Mendell said.
Some participating restaurants have received not only local coverage, but mentions in national press. Masha & the Bear, a Russian eatery, was featured in The New Yorker. Wafa’s Express, a Lebanese restaurant, has been mentioned in the New York Times.
Mendell added that one aspect that’s different about the Grand Street restaurant week is that restaurants set their own prices, rather than abiding by a specific range.
“We’re probably the only restaurant week in New York City that has an $8 lunch,” Hill said.