Well, I’m back again with some good news and some bad news. Unfortunately, there’s no other way to describe it. Remember the article on the Farm to School Program’s expansion? We’ve got another similar situation on our hands.
FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS
South Carolina Restaurant Week is just around the corner. The dates are January 10-20, 2013 and it’s all across the State … almost. Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.
For several years the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association has hosted Restaurant Week in mid-January. Why? First, because it’s their job to promote and represent their member organizations throughout the year and second, it’s January. January can be a very slow month for restaurant traffic due to the financial (and dieting) pressures many of us face after the holiday season. Weight Watchers and fitness clubs do well, restaurants … eh, not so much.
The concept of Restaurant Week isn’t new, but it’s made to order for all involved. The following is taken from the official website: “From fine to casual dining, participating restaurants will feature special menus items, promotions and discounts. Diners can sample our newest restaurants, dine at old favorites and taste a variety of exceptional dishes being prepared by chefs at a great value for customers.
So Pee Dee Foodies, are you ready to make your local reservations? Not so fast.
NOW, THE BAD NEWS
The Pee Dee, as best I can tell, will have little participation this year. I checked the website today (Updated: 01/10/2013) and of the hundreds of restaurants said to participating statewide, I found that the Pee Dee Region has a grand total of two (2) hosting events:
1712 W. Palmetto Street
Florence, SC 29501
Southern, $7.49 per person
1247 Irby Street
Florence, SC 29505
American, $30.00 per person
I don’t do a lot of editorializing here on the blog or on the podcast, but today is going to be a rare exception. I’m just really disappointed by the showing from our region and you should be as well. This is the major Restaurant Week of the year. It’s the big push to help local restaurants connect with their communities. No reflection intended on those that are participating this year, but I’d like to know why the Pee Dee is so poorly represented — in number of restaurants. Can someone tell me? Please.
Without an official answer, we’re all just left to theorize. I’ve put together a few of my own theories to fill that gap for now, but I’d welcome official feedback to share with our readers as an update.
THEORY 1 – The SCRLA doesn’t see the Pee Dee Region as a priority.
Did the SCRLA specifically attempt to recruit restaurants from our region? Certain clues lead me wonder. To start, the “Pee Dee” is not listed as a region among the options available for search on the official South Carolina Restaurant Week website. Florence is just lumped in with the Grand Strand. I like the beach just as much as the next guy, but come on folks — get a map and understand your constituents. If anything, due to the meanderings of the Great Pee Dee River, the cities near the coast should be lumped in with us. Maybe we should be known as the Grand Pee Dee? But, I digress.
In short, there is no better way to put a damper on enthusiasm for a project than not to recognize an entire region of the State as being important to that project. If the Pee Dee is part of the Grand Strand marketing effort, how much attention does anyone realistically think we’re going to get?
That begs the question, “Why would the Pee Dee be seemingly slighted in such a way?” Maybe, it’s because there are apparently no SCRLA board members specifically representing the Pee Dee. Granted, the Pee Dee is not the most prosperous or most populated region of the State, but no one? We’re an I-95 corridor and we get tons of traffic. Doesn’t that beg some attention? Of course, maybe I just missed the name(s). I’d love to be corrected on this observation.
Consistent with what I found above, is that the chapters of the organization don’t recognize the Pee Dee either. Again, we’re part of the Myrtle Beach Partnership. When something arrives at a Pee Dee restaurant from that chapter, I’ll bet it doesn’t get a great deal of attention. Why would it?
Finally, where are Hartsville, Dillon, Darlington, Lake City, Hemingway, Scranton, Marion, and other cities in the region? They all have great local restaurants. Are none SCRLA members? Were they not contacted? I looked for a membership list, but couldn’t find one online. Maybe there aren’t that many SCRLA members in our region, which would explain a lot.
THEORY 2 – Pee Dee restaurants don’t see the SCRLA (or Restaurant Week) as a priority.
• $225 per restaurant with 5 or fewer locations
• $175 per restaurant for statewide restaurants with 6-10 locations that operate under same name
• $150 per restaurant for statewide restaurants with 11 or more locations that operate under same name
Each participating restaurant location had to also provide a $50 gift certificate and had to be signed up and paid by December 10, 2012. A late registration fee of $200 was added after that date.
Is that all too much for a restaurant? I don’t know that, but I do know that people pay for the value they perceive they are getting in return from the SCRLA and their potential customers.
Kudos to Lizard’s Thicket and Victors Bistro for making this investment. They were aware of the opportunity to participate and saw the value of that participation. Let’s support them in their decisions. My family and I plan to visit both participants before the event ends.
THEORY 3 – Pee Dee residents don’t see Restaurant Week as a priority.
We just didn’t do our part. That’s the third potential reason for the short list of participating restaurants this year.
I mean, maybe we didn’t support the Pee Dee’s restaurants that did participate during South Carolina Restaurant Week 2011 and South Carolina Restaurant Week 2012. Maybe they put together special menus, offered what they thought were great prices, and set their tables, but we didn’t show up. That would be a good reason to discontinue participation, wouldn’t it?
Were the menus too ordinary? Were the prices too high? Were we not paying attention? South Carolina Restaurant Week’s annual success, and thereby its future restaurant participation levels, depends upon diners doing their parts as well. I count myself in that number, so if this is the real reason, then we all have to do better in supporting our local eateries.
I’m not trying to pick a fight with the SCRLA, local restaurateurs, or anyone else for that matter. The actual reason for this low level of participation is probably some combination of all of the above. When it comes down to it, I’m just one person that believes that this year’s Pee Dee participation level in South Carolina Restaurant Week doesn’t need to be repeated next year — whatever the reason(s).
Toward that end, I’m proudly working with the Florence (SC) Convention & Visitors Bureau today to spread the word about this year’s participants to our readers. I hope that more awareness this year will lead to more awareness next year. If I can otherwise assist our local restaurant community, the Florence CVB, or the SCRLA, I stand ready to do so now and in the future.
Comment Questions for You
• What do you think of this minimal level of participation?
• What’s the best way to increase participation next year?
Please answer below or email me.
Editor’s Note: Original post published on 01/05/2013. Victors Bistro added on 01/10/2013. This post has been edited to reflect that addition, as well as our promotional collaboration with the Florence CVB.
About the AuthorKevin Barron is a husband, father, self-described geek, and enthusiastic founder of PeeDeeFoodie.com. He also hosts its companion podcast, the Pee Dee Food Show, which can be found on iTunes and the blog. Learn more about Kevin under the Contributors tab above.
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Here's what I posted on Facebook in response to your question, "Why isn't Restaurant Week a bigger deal in the Pee Dee?"
1. Nobody here knows about it. In the past, it was hardly promoted at all. Even foodie types did not know about local choices.
2. The set menus that were offered in the past usually included wine, and I'm not paying a premium for alcohol that I don't drink. Subbing a glass of tea is not the same.
3. In other SC towns, they offer packages with their hotels and attractions, offering family or couple "escapes" tailored to their targeted market.
4. The "escape" packages are targeted locally, not just to out of towners, like a romantic getaway, that's not "away" or a "discover our hometown" with your family.
I would also add:
5. The Pee Dee as a whole would benefit from much more coordination of efforts in many aspects. The Pee Dee Arts newsletter, the Florence Convention and Visitors Bureau "What's Going on Here?" newsletter, and the Downtown newsletter all help to coordinate information, but more collaboration and partnership--rather than each tiny entity trying to "go it alone" would make for much more successful events, campaigns, and visibility.
@SloaneSpencer Re: Alcohol... I completely agree. It's even more of an issue here, as some of our restaurants included the alcohol rather than dessert (I'd rather have dessert, hehe). Even the running races here cost more because of the "free beer" at the end. Plus with restaurant week, you want to save money so if you're paying for alcohol you don't want, you're not saving and you may as well go when it's not crowded.
The best menus I've seen were ones that offered a lot of choices- even with 3-5 dishes you can. Some of the restaurants have a beef dish, chicken dish, pork dish, seafood dish, and vegetarian dish. That's great- you have all bases covered for what people might feel like eating as an entree :).
Also thankful for Kevin & Melissa and all they do, because just bringing awareness to the issue on here. Maybe more places in Florence will jump on board next year. Despite living down here now, there are definitely Florence eateries that I miss!
@SloaneSpencer - Thanks, Sloane. We should consider your suggestions. They are constructive and have great potential.
Will Crosswell wrote this comment on Facebook in response to a link to this article. It has been cut an pasted below: "After reading your post, I think it's a combo of your 1st and 2nd theory. Without representation from the Pee Dee area on the board and with us being molded in with the Beach, I think we miss that much needed recognition. Perhaps we need ol' Pee Dee Foodie to find a place on the board! In looking at your second theory, I don't see why restaurants wouldn't want to be a part of this. It's a great for the community and helps sales because you may have a flood of traffic come in your doors that normally wouldn't. But promotion, lack of presentation, and lack or participation on more restaurants leaves the Pee Dee region out of the loop again."
Living in the Pee Dee my entire life, I think it's a combination of #1 and #2. Yet, it's not just with the Restaurant Week, it's with every thing involving the state as a whole. The big wigs in the state do not care about the Pee Dee region, and the feeling is mutual.
The Pee Dee is usually neglected (not always), when the big companies come, despite being right on I-95. If it wasn't for Mr. Letherman, Florence County would be in MUCH worse shape. So, it's a microcosmic view of this state when it comes to the Pee Dee Region.
Going out tonight to McCrady's in Charleston for the start of Restaurant Week! It is huge here and so much fun! We go to nice restaurants that we wouldn't normally frequent and we go with our neighbors and have a great time! Come on Pee Dee, just do it!!
Restaurant week is huge here. I tried to get a reservation yesterday for an Italian restaurant here, and it's booked ALL WEEK LONG. Locals are surprised that I'm only thinking about eating at one place, apparently a lot of people here hit up 2-3 restaurants during the week because you get such a good deal on the food- and you do.
You're saving at least $10-20 dollars on the meal and that's at the lower end (2 for $20) restaurants we're looking at. Since it's so big, West Ashley/Avondale even has a separate restaurant week right after Charleston's (which is when we will go eat at said restaurant, the less crowded restaurant week).
Some of the places participating here are chains... most are locally owned small chains. I do wonder why some of the good restaurants in the Pee Dee aren't participating, it would be great to get people out during an otherwise boring time of year between the holidays and Valentine's Day business. It does get me that the Pee Dee "lags behind" in things like this