CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston's first ever Restaurant Week wrapped up at the beginning of the month. Now, a survey of participating restaurants indicates the event was not only wildly popular with customers, but was just what the eateries needed to jumpstart their businesses after a sharp dip in revenue prompted by the water crisis and freezing temperatures.
The survey, conducted by Dickenson Gould of Buzz Food -- organizer of the local Restaurant Week event -- found an estimated 4,500 people took part in the eat-out-a-thon, which featured special three-course menus for just $30 each.
The diners generate roughly $135,000 in meal sales.
"It was a huge success. The timing couldn't have been more perfect," said Anne Arbaugh of the South Hills Market.
In fact, the owners of South Hills Market were so pleased with the event's response that they have decided to indefinitely continue the $30 special, and will offer a set, limited-choice menu on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays -- including an appetizer, entrée and desert.
They will continue the promotion as long as there is interest in the community, Arbaugh said.
Restaurant Week "was amazing, we more than doubled our business from last year," said Niki Kurten, general manager and one of the owners of Paterno's on The Park.
In tandem with the social network "Turn up the Tips" campaign, "people were very generous with our wait staff. They saw a definite increase in their take home," she added.
All of the restaurant staff and owners who commented for this article agreed there were many new faces seen over the course of the week, new customers and potential regulars who had not been in before. Arbaugh and Kurten both said they hope the exposure generated by Restaurant Week will yield returning patronage from people who dined in their establishments for the first time.
"It's been crazy here! We have been completely booked. It has been a huge up tick for us and we've also seen a lot of faces we've never seen before," said a waiter at Noah's Eclectic Bistro.
In addition to food sales and tips being up during Restaurant Week, bar sales also saw an increase, according to results of the survey. Between food, tips and bar tabs, Gould said the January event generated roughly $225,000 in revenue.
All of the success has led to speculation, and perhaps hope, that the next Restaurant Week will come sooner rather than later. Gould said he plans to host another one in January 2015, but not before.He also said he hopes to use this time in between to build excitement about next year's event and to encourage more restaurants to participate.
Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at autumn.hopk...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.