Restaurant Week: Behind the Scenes

rw_logo_200For diners, the benefits of Restaurant Week are obvious: affordable food at usually expensive restaurants that people normally might not get to try. But what’s it mean for restaurant owners?

Well, in a traditionally slow month for restaurants, it brings in new faces and repeat customers alike. In fact, restaurateur Steve Cook (owner of Zahav and Xochitl) is a huge fan of the promotional week and believes that if a restaurant is serious about attracting long-term customers, it will see RW as a marketing opportunity: “No single restaurant can generate this amount of business on its own,” he says.

But that all adds up to a ton of work. Cook compares the business he does at Zahav during Restaurant Week to two straight weeks of Saturday nights — meaning his entire staff is working at full capacity. Kathryn Faenza, co-owner of Salento in Center City, goes into a prepping frenzy: “We’re doing what we usually do, but on speed. Ordering and prepping a lot more food, making a lot more desserts, generally making extra of everything because you don’t want to be caught short.”

According to a rep from Gelmarc distributors, restaurants use this as a time to beef up supplies, by taking stock of what they have and ordering extra flatware, glassware and dishes. And Audrey Taichman, who starts taking RW reservations a month ahead for her Rittenhouse BYOB Audrey Claire, actually has to hire someone full time to cover the phones because demand is so great.

Despite the grumbling we sometimes hear from Restaurant Week naysayers, all the owners we talked to agree it’s well worth it — it could be the kickstart they need for a profitable fall.