Since its inaugural year in 2018, Longmont Restaurant Week has been a chance for the community to enjoy local restaurants while supporting the city’s diverse food and beverage industry and allowing diners to try new menu experiences.
Like a lot of other things about the restaurant industry in 2020, logistics for the event, which runs Friday through Sept. 27, are proving to be different in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We wanted to be sure that in bringing Restaurant Week back, we were truly helping those industries, making sure that this event was really going to lift them up,” said Karen Stallard, membership director at the Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce, who spearheads the event.
“We also wanted to remind people that while it really stinks that we’re still here in September of 2020, if we want to have a thriving and connected dining community after this is done, we have to show up now and we have to show up through the winter.”
One of the biggest changes to the week is that the $18.71 (representing the year Longmont was founded) and $28.71 restaurant specialty menus are gone. Stallard said those price points provided discounts of 20% or more on menu prices. With the challenges restaurants face now, including capacity restrictions, higher food costs and supply chains that continue to be fractured, organizers didn’t want restaurants to have to take a loss.
The format has been restructured so diners pay the full price, but they will be eligible for add-on items or discounts when they reach $30 and $60 spending thresholds. The choice of incentives is being left up to restaurants.
This year, diners can be part of the week in two ways: by dining on site or using to-go/curbside pickup. With the second option, diners can make their experience entirely touchless, ordering over the phone and paying in advance. With both options, diners should mention their participation in Restaurant Week to be sure the incentives apply.
Though the number of participating restaurants was expected to exceed 50 before the pandemic hit, the total is now 36. At the same time, the variety of dining experiences remains broad, ranging from fine dining to tacos, from pizza to Indian cuisine, from high-end Italian to breweries, cideries and distilleries. The full list of participants is available at longmontrestaurantweek.com.
Though the week looks different, restaurants are excited to be part of it.
“We’re thrilled that Restaurant Week is still happening this year. Restaurants need the support more than ever,” said Jamie Bucci, general manager of The Post in Longmont.
Sukhi Kaur, co-owner of Flavor of India, agreed. “This year is nothing like last year, but we’re excited for the new approach. We love both the current week incentives and bounce-back incentives to keep people returning later in the year.”
The bounce-back incentives are one of the most inventive parts of this year’s event. All diners during Restaurant Week will be given a card offering them enticements to revisit restaurants later in the year. They’re part of what Stallard is calling the Winter Program, a plan to keep diners active as restaurant capacity becomes more limited as weather restricts outdoor dining.
One thing Stallard said she hopes Restaurant Week does this year is showcase Longmont’s restaurants for the role they play in the city, especially in difficult times.
“We wanted to have a distinct shift to focus on the owners and the people in the restaurants who are still working,” she said. “They’re still trying to serve us as fellow Longmonsters. It’s not just about saving a business, it's about supporting our neighbors and community members.”