Every year for the last 16 years, the San Diego Chapter of the California Restaurant Association hosts two one-week long Restaurant Week events in San Diego County — in January and in September.
This year, however, because of the global coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding indoor dining in the state of California, the San Diego Chapter decided to pivot its efforts toward a more fitting initiative.
Running Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, Dine Diego will take the place of San Diego Restaurant Week. Its goal, said Andy Baumann, is to encourage San Diegans to eat out and support participating restaurants in droves, and subsequently create work for servers, cooks, farmers, suppliers and other affected groups. Baumann is executive board member of the California Restaurant Association’s San Diego Chapter.
Normally, the businesses participating in Restaurant Week offer discounts.
“With the climate we are in, specifically in California, there was no way we could ask our 200 restaurant members to offer discounts this year,” said Baumann, who is also owner of Tom Ham’s Lighthouse downtown and the Bali Hai Restaurant on Shelter Island.
“So, we needed to make a choice as a chapter. We talked to our sponsors about shifting from sponsoring Restaurant Week to another program altogether and worked with the San Diego Tourism Authority, which launched its own ‘Stay Diego’ initiative. San Diego is one of the top tourism hubs. There are no conventions happening and little travel, but local Californians and San Diegans want to go out. This month-long event will push them to get out and dine.”
Cutwater Spirits, the biggest distillery in San Diego County, and Specialty Produce, a local wholesale distributor, are among two of Restaurant Week’s biggest sponsors, said Baumann.
The program works as follows: SanDiegoRestaurantWeek.com will redirect users to a list of participating locations. This can be viewed a number of different ways, via different search options, including neighborhood, food type and dining options (such as outdoor dining or meal kits to-go). The site also features an interactive, clickable map as well as an alphabetized list of participants.
To have an even bigger impact, Baumann said the San Diego Chapter of the California Restaurant Association decided to open registration to Dine Diego to more than just its 200 restaurant members.
“We have over 200 members in San Diego, and cost depends on revenue,” said Baumann, 35. “But we felt this time, the more restaurants we have banded together, the better. So, we decided, in order to entice new members, we would waive the participation fee this time around. We encouraged all restaurants to participate, without being members this year, and hopefully they can see the benefit and join our association later.”
Over 300 Destinations
As a result, over 300 eateries are partaking, he said, including Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butcher Shop downtown, Terra American Bistro in College East and Fiesta de Reyes, located in Old Town.
The hope is that Dine Diego will generate as much if not more bookings than Restaurant Week, which typically sees more than 150,000 diners across eight days. So far, the Dine Diego program is seeing significant reservation growth day-over-day on OpenTable, a restaurant reservation service company and a partner of the association’s San Diego Chapter.
“With 30 days of Dine Diego, we anticipate several hundred thousand diners will visit or order to-go from our local restaurants,” said Baumann.Julie Coker, president and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority, said the goal is to entice San Diegans to enjoy all that the city has to offer while supporting the region’s hospitality businesses.
“We want San Diegans to support our local economy by safely spending a night or a weekend in our hotels, by dining in our restaurants, by shopping at our stores and by having fun at our beaches and bays and other attractions like Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo,” she said. “We’re asking locals to make new memories here while providing an economic boost” to the local food and beverage industry and the overall economy.