Generating Buzz

Restaurant Week takes off in Charleston.

HOW WE DID IT

january is an awful time

 

for the restaurant 

business. The weather is bad, everyone is 
still clinging to New Year’s resolutions, 
and no one wants to spend money after 
those Christmastime credit card statements 
arrive. Big restaurant chains can survive this 
slump without worry. But for locally owned 
restaurants, several weeks of slow business 
can be financially catastrophic.

That’s why the Charleston-based restaurant 

supplier Buzz Food Service decided to step in 
and help its local food scene. The company 
launched Charleston Restaurant Week in 
2014 with eight restaurants offering special 
menus featuring three-course meals for $30. 
“We thought anything that would get people 

considering 
eating out, that 
would be good 
for restaurants,” 
says Dickinson 
Gould, president 
of Buzz.

It’s a model 

that had worked 
in many other 
cities. Gould 
had his first 
experience with 
a restaurant week 
in Washington, 
D.C., when he 
was fresh out 
of college and 
strapped for cash. 
“It just made 
an impression 
on me. It was 
a cool way to 
show people 
what you had to 
offer without the 
restriction of that 
really expensive 
meal,” he says.

The promotion 

worked in Charleston, too. Diners 
came out in droves that first year, 
snatching up every available reservation 

at some restaurants. Since then, Buzz 
Food Service has organized two more 
Restaurant Weeks. The most recent, held 
in January 2016, featured 20 participating 

restaurants, which sold more than 10,000 meals 
and contributed an estimated $500,000 to 
the city’s economy. “They get slammed, but 
it’s great. We’ve had clients tell us it’s the 
best week, financially, in their restaurant’s 
history,” Gould says.

Gould expects the event to keep growing. 

“I’ve read editorials where people feel like the 
model is played out. Not here. I meet people 
all the time who say ‘I just heard about 
Restaurant Week!’ As more and more people 
become aware of it, I know we can keep two 
dozen restaurants very busy for this otherwise 
cold week in January,” he says.

written by 

zack harold

WHY IT WORKS

“A lot of people don’t stop to think, 
what is a chain restaurant and what 

is a local restaurant. There’s a lot of 

room for us to make an impression on 

the people of Charleston. The line of 

people that wait outside Olive Garden 

could probably support three more 

restaurants downtown. I feel like this 

promotion is a step toward that goal.”

“What we really want to do is

 

introduce new customers to local 

restaurants. The hope is they try 

something they haven’t tried before, 

love it, appreciate the quality of the 

service, and come to the conclusion, 

‘This is where I want to come for my 

birthday.’”

“I think part of the why

 Restaurant 

Week is a success is, eating in a 

crowded restaurant makes the food 

taste better. We’re so spoiled in 

Charleston—most Fridays you can 

get home from work and then decide, 

where do we want to go to dinner? 

You don’t have to worry about a 

reservation. To have a week where 

you have to plan ahead, it changes 

the experience.”

“We have a lot of people

 who 

contribute time and labor, as a labor 

of love. We’ve got a volunteer who 

designed a great website. We’d 

never met. He just said ‘I thought you 

could use a website—and sent me a 

link. Things like that make me love 

Charleston.”

EL

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Bridge Road Bistro 
has participated in 
all three Charleston 
Restaurant Weeks

.

30   wvl 

 spring 2016

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