OCEAN CITY – The fall season’s Restaurant Week is nearing its end in the Ocean City area and area operators are reporting it has turned out to be a win-win for them and their customers.
Restaurant Week began on Oct. 14 and runs through Sunday, Oct. 28. The event began in Ocean City in the spring season of 2007 and the fall season event started being offered in 2010.
Restaurant Week is a nation-wide campaign but in Ocean City it’s used as a tool to give chefs and restaurants to be as creative as they like as well as provide an economic boost in the resort’s shoulder seasons.
“We try to do it at times when people need business, that was part of the motivation to spur the economy and get people out dining, and that helps not only the restaurant owners but also the servers and bartenders, of course,” Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) Executive Director Susan Jones said.
As far as being creative, some restaurants will offer “bonus bites and beverages” as an added incentive. For example, Horizons in the Clarion Fontainebleau offers a complimentary glass of house wine or domestic beer with Restaurant Week purchase. If seated between 5-6 p.m., diners at Jules Restaurant will be treated to a complimentary glass of wine, while Fresco’s is offering a wine flight for $20.
According to Jones, the event has not changed too much over the years besides last year the OCHMRA added a new twist to Restaurant Week to further entire dining out. She explained that when it first started out participating restaurants offered two courses for $20 or three courses for $30.
Since OCHMRA has a wide variety of restaurant members, from the high-end fine dining to the more casual, it decided to expand the concept to better accommodate members whose restaurants offered meals at lower price points. Now Restaurant Week participants have the opportunity to offer four price points, which are $10, $20, $30 and $40.
“With a wider range of price points, this concept also has a better appeal to diners because it offers price points for all budgets,” Jones said.
Layton’s Restaurant on 92nd Street owner Terry Layton said this will be the restaurant’s second year participating in Restaurant Week. He joined when the $10 price point was added because he only serves breakfast and lunch this time of year. Layton’s is one of four restaurants offering $10 options.
Layton reports there is a noticeable difference in the amount of diners that come into the restaurant during Restaurant Week.
“It definitely helps business, probably about half of the people order off of that special menu even though we serve our regular menu also at the same time,” he said. “I have had people come in that said they heard we were involved with it and they were interested in seeing the menu.”
A couple of $10 breakfast options on the Restaurant Week menu at Layton’s include Eggs Chesapeake, which is two small crab cakes over a English muffin with hollandaise sauce and hash browns, or Stuffed French Toast with cream cheese and walnuts and a maple sauce. For lunch, there is a Black and Blue Half Pound Cheeseburger with sweet potato fries.
The Shark on the Harbor co-owner Jody Wright had rave reviews for the Restaurant Week concept, which her culinary team is excited to be a part of each season.
“It is a really great way to offer locals and visitors the opportunity to try our restaurant with a planned budget in mind,” Wright said. “Over the years everyone seems to really enjoy the promotion … we have gotten great feedback where people look forward to it and it’s an opportunity where they can bring friends and family to dinner that they don’t get to dine with very often.”
Wright has also noticed an increase in diners during Restaurant Week.
“If nothing else, it gets people thinking about dining out,” she said. “Even if they don’t choose from the Restaurant Week menu, it gets the restaurants on their minds and encourages them to come out. It’s a good reminder that they have some really good places to eat right in their back yard.”
The Shark on the Harbor in West Ocean City has been participating in Restaurant Week since it began in Ocean City. It offers three courses for $30. The first course includes a soup, such as Fisherman’s Stew, or a mixed green salad. There are at least three entrée options for the second course, such as Pan Seared Mako or Lowcountry Pork Chop, and of course the third course includes options for a dessert, such as a Mocha Tart or a Mini Crème Brulee.
“We write our menu everyday based on what’s fresh available and delicious so we don’t run the same menu all the time,” Wright said. “We give a lot of options throughout the while two week period.”
Since restaurants can choose which price points they’d like to offer, be sure to check out the menus by visiting the official website, www.oceancityrestaurantweek.com or by calling the OCHMRA at 800-626-2326, ext. 2.