Pandemic-era Restaurant Week returns in September with new name, concept
Monthlong Dine Diego event will use Restaurant Week website to promote takeout and patio specials countywide
Every September for the past 18 or so years, local restaurants have taken part in San Diego Restaurant Week, a discount meal promotion to thank local diners and fill more tables during the traditionally slow days after tourist season ends.
But with the local restaurant industry now devastated by the pandemic, every day is a slow day and full tables are no longer possible in their dining rooms. To give both restaurateurs and homebound diners a boost next month, San Diego Restaurant Week is coming back, but in an entirely new way.
On Sept. 15, the San Diego chapter of the California Restaurant Association will launch Dine Diego, an expanded monthlong showcase of San Diego County restaurants that will offer special outdoor and takeout meal deals. Diners visiting the San Diego Restaurant Week website won’t find prix-fixe menus at different price-points at up to 200 CRA member-owned restaurants. Instead, the website will serve as a central informational hub for restaurants offering whatever dining deals they can afford to through Oct. 15.
Jeff Rossman, a longtime local restaurateur who is the president of the CRA’s local chapter, said that when the pandemic hit in March, the chapter began offering its website and services to all local restaurant owners, whether they were CRA members or not. For Dine Diego, membership and the usual fees required to participate in Restaurant Week have been waived. The only requirement to participate is for restaurants to donate a few gift cards, which will be used as prizes for some games to reward diners who visit multiple participating restaurants.
Rossman said the goal is to have at least 200 participants in the Dine Diego program. The website should be updated with all of the Dine Diego information by Sept. 1. The public will be able to search the restaurants in the database by neighborhood, category of cuisine and by whether they’re offering patio and/or takeout service.
Rossman, who owns Terra American Bistro in Rolando and Bunz Burger Joint in Mission Valley, describes the past five months as a “crazy, crazy time” for local restaurants. Although some restaurants with ample patio dining, takeout service and ocean or bayfront locations are doing well, that’s a relative term. He said most restaurants are only doing 60 percent or less of the business they did before the pandemic.
“This is a business that runs on pennies. That’s not a sustainable model at all,” Rossman said.
Dine Diego couldn’t arrive at a better time, since most of the federal Paycheck Protection Program loans that restaurants qualified for will begin running out in October, Rossman said. San Diego diners have been very loyal to their favorite eateries during the pandemic, he said, but all restaurants will need more support this fall.
“Dine Diego will be a way to say thank you to the public and at the same time generate some extra revenue,” he said.
For details, visit sandiegorestaurantweek.com.
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