WOODBURY – Diners had a tough time finding an open table at participating Woodbury Restaurant Week eateries during the third-annual event, which was held this past March 19-25.
Except for that Wednesday, March 21, when a Nor’easter was supposed to dump a foot of snow on the region, kept getting delayed, and became much ado about nothing.
“We were busy pretty much every day but the snow day,” said Dennis DeBellis, the owner of John’s Cafe. “We stayed open in the snow day, but nobody came out. Every other day, we were jamming upstairs, downstairs. It was a huge success.”
Just how huge a success? Even with the snow day, half of the 14 restaurants said their traffic and revenues rose more than 20% vs. Woodbury Restaurant Week 2017.
Also, 45% of customers who were surveyed said they visited two participating restaurants during Woodbury Restaurant Week. More than 20% said they visited three or more participating restaurants.
Changing of the Guard
In January, What’s On in Woodbury (WOW) determined it would not be able to run restaurant week for a third year, and asked the Woodbury Business Association (WBA) if it would be interested in taking it over. On January 12, WBA decided it would not sponsor the event.
That’s when Just Woodbury jumped in and took over.
“I felt it would be foolish not to take it over,” said Just Woodbury Founder and Publisher Tim Parry. “We want to help Woodbury businesses grow their exposure and bottom lines. Reviving an existing event and putting the power of promotion behind it was a terrific way to prove we can do that.”
With the help of Frank Longo, a Woodbury resident with a restaurant background, Just Woodbury grew Woodbury Restaurant Week from a festival for foodies into a town wide event. Woodbury Restaurant Week included promotional tie-ins from the town’s shops, antiques dealers, and other events to make Woodbury a destination.
“We didn’t want it to be a dine-and-dash,” Longo said. “We wanted people from all around to see that Woodbury was more than just a small town with great restaurants.”
A stamp card was also used to drive diners back to restaurants, to the shops, dealers, and events, and was also good for complimentary tickets for a raffle that was held at the Woodbury Restaurant Week closing party at Woodbury Brewing Company. Tickets were also available for purchase and raised $200 for the Woodbury Food Bank.
“The way Just Woodbury did it this year was fantastic,” said John Rakiposki, the owner of The Woodbury Diner. “The promotion was great. A lot of people were talking about the specials that were online. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Woodbury Restaurant Week Lessons Learned
With only nine weeks to plan and execute Woodbury Restaurant Week, Parry said he and Longo had to be nimble with their planning. That included educating restaurateurs about the promotion, teaching them how to promote themselves, and getting the word out to 67 media outlets within a 50-mile radius of Woodbury.
Parry said he could have done a better job designing WoodburyRestaurantWeek.com for usability purposes. The website had more than 2,500 users and over 10,000 pageviews during restaurant week but felt the pageviews could have been even higher.
He added he also could have done a better job promoting the events, shops, and dealers on the website and in social media.
The restaurateurs also learned lessons along the way.
Judy Doran, owner of The Charcoal Chef, said participation in Woodbury Restaurant Week helped bring in new customers and re-engage customers who hadn’t visited in a while. However, Doran said there were some customers who were not happy because they hadn’t offered any specials.
To make customers happy, Doran said they gave customers half price desserts or half price drinks.
But overall, Doran was happy with the way Woodbury Restaurant Week turned out.
“Just Woodbury did a great job getting the word out,” Doran said. “We participated [in Woodbury Restaurant Week] the first year , but there wasn’t any impact on the business.”