How about this for a super-smart move by full-service restaurants in Los Angeles? First, the better to drive pre-holiday business in these troubled economic times, they doubled up on the ever-popular restaurant week concept by rolling out a fall edition; it’s going on this week and next, Saturday nights excluded. Second, to publicize it, they cashed in on the food truck craze by slapping the dineLA Restaurant Week logo on one and having five prominent chefs serve out of it during the week prior to the event. If you want to pump some life into your town’s restaurant community, this looks like the way to go.
Restaurant weeks are a promotion proven to work anywhere in the country. Part of their value to operators is that tables fill up with customers, often new customers, lured by the resasonable prix fixe nature of the promotion. Another benefit: the event creates a collective buzz about a town’s restaurant offerings that does wonders to raise overall awareness of its dining scene.
“DineLA Restaurant Week is a proven economic engine for the City of Los Angeles, with 84 percent of restaurants that previously participated reporting a positive impact on their business,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the kickoff press conference. Something must be working, because a whopping 260 restaurants are participating in the fall dineLA event.
Most restaurant weeks offer a one-price deal wherever patrons go, but Los Angeles went with a three-tier approach on this one. The lowest level is “deluxe dining,” where it costs $16 for lunch or $26 for dinner to eat a three-course meal at places like Café des Artistes or Border Grill. “Premier dining” raises the ante to $22 for lunch and $34 for dinner, which gets you a meal from SimonLA, Campanile and other fine operations. The top tier costs $28 at lunch and $44 at dinner, a good deal for a meal at, say, Boa Steakhouse or Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. A nifty one-stop-shopping website listed all participating restaurants, their price points and their special menus and provided a link through which customers could make a reservation.
All of which would have been plenty to make the event a success. But the dineLA organizers also had a genius idea when it came to publicity. They hooked up with RoadStoves—outfitter to some of the city’s highest-profile gourmet food trucks, including the much-heralded Kogi—to provide a food truck for the event. It cruised the city in the week prior to the beginning of dineLA Restaurant Week, stirring up a tsunami of media coverage wherever it went. No wonder; some of the hottest chefs in L.A. took turns doing the cooking for the truck.
This was the schedule:
9/28, Hollywood: Dakota at the Hollywood Roosevelt, executive chef Jason Johnston
9/29, Mid City: The Foundry on Melrose, executive chef Eric Greenspan
9/30, Santa Monica: Anisette Brasserie, executive chef Alain Giraud
10/1, Beverly Hills: Lawry's, The Prime Rib, executive chef Walter Eckstein
10/2, Downtown: Rosa Mexicano, executive chef John England
“The foodie public has really gravitated toward this new phenomenon, so we’re capitalizing on that as a way to get the word out about the program and promote our incredible brick-and-mortar restaurants at the same time,” said dineLA director Carrie Kommers. “We’re taking our chefs on the road—what could be more fun?”
Some of the participating chefs were a little leery about the idea. “I’ve never worked inside a truck so I don’t want to get too ambitious,” said Giraud, who handed out his free samples while the food truck was parked on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade. That’s him in the photo at the top of this story. But nobody complained about the attention this drew from the city’s legions of print, electric and online media.
The dineLA promotion runs from Oct. 4 through Oct. 16, excluding, Sat. Oct 10. We suggest to operators in other towns that they consider adding a second yearly restaurant week of their own. Trust us, most restaurants and customers would welcome one. And we can’t think of a better way to publicize it than the one-shot food truck idea they came up with in L.A. If you’re part of an independent restaurant owner’s group or other local restaurant entity, why not bring it up at your next meeting?