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PAMELA WISCHKAEMPER

Saturday, January 07, 2006 | San Diego’s second Restaurant Week is coming up Jan. 15 through Jan. 20. It’s a great idea. Thirty dollars buys the customer a three course meal in some of the city and county’s best eateries. We are late comers when it comes to Restaurant Week.

The idea was the brain child of “I love New York,” New York City’s visitors and convention bureau. Because February was such a terrible month for restaurants in America’s most famous restaurant city, the San Diego Convention and Visitor’s Bureau decided to give a boost to business. Three-course lunches were offered for a week at some of the very best restaurants in the city.

Each year, the cost would go up one penny to match the year. This year’s menu is $20. People go to New York from all over the country and spend a week eating at some of the best restaurants in the world. The huge ad in the New York Times alerts prospective customers all over the world about the event. Business-card sized schedules with subway and bus stop information for the restaurants are available all over the city. New York makes it easy.

The sponsors are hoping that restaurant week will put San Diego on the national culinary map. There’s a cookbook out there to buy and a national public-relations push. But this is not what restaurant week is supposed to be about. Restaurant week was conceived to put bodies in restaurant seats at a time of the year when business is at its lowest. High-end restaurants buy in because they want to introduce potential special-occasion diners to their operations. Showing off the lobster and foie gras makes people want to come back. Other restaurants want the chance to gain a larger customer base.

To encourage more restaurant participation, is there some way to cut the costs? Many of our best free-standing restaurants can’t afford the fees involved.

Pamela J. Wischkaemper is a local food consultant and is the founder of San Diego Gastronomically Correct, a group that goes on the road twice a year to promote the San Diego restaurant industry.

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