By Tricia Crimmins
This year, NYC Restaurant Week is going to look a bit different.
And the changes come in both form and function. This time around, rather than a promotional event to help restaurants thrive, it is aiming at helping them survive. Rather than enjoying an influx of reservations from opportunist foodies, restaurants will be packaging their offerings —for a discounted rate of $20.21— for pickup or delivery.
The weeklong event, started by Tim Zagat and Joe Baum in 1992 and now run by NYC & Company, is set for January 25th through the 31st. Restaurants also have the option of extending the $20.21 deal until February 7. It is no longer just a promotional event designed to allow New Yorkers to enjoy some of the city’s fine dining at discounted rates. Because the restaurant industry has been hit incredibly hard during the pandemic, NYC & Company waived registration fees for this year’s festivities, resulting in a record 570+ participating restaurants, all hoping for some extra business in an extraordinarily lean time.
According to a September 2020 report from the National Restaurant Association, 100,000 restaurants closed in the first six months of the pandemic. The Association also released survey results in April of last year stating that two out of three restaurant employees had been laid off due to the pandemic.
Nes Panlilio, a manager at one participating restaurant, Extra Virgin in the West Village, said he and fellow staff members have been doing whatever they can to help the restaurant survive. “We have the outdoor heat lamps,” Panlilio said. “We’ve been doing the to-go.”
This is Extra Virgin’s first year taking part in Restaurant Week, and Panlilio hopes the event will bring the restaurant some extra visibility. “And it was free, so why not?” he said.
Staff members at Court Street Tavern, a combination restaurant and ice rink, also say they are vying for increased visibility. Even though the restaurant didn’t receive any orders on the first night of Restaurant Week, manager Traci Gomes remains hopeful. “Just being able to reach one more person helps us in a big way,” she said.
Customers seem delighted to see the winter installment of the bi-annual event return after it was cancelled during the summer of 2020. Max Markovitz, a nightclub bartender from East Flatbush and a diehard Restaurant Week fan, took part in the $20.21 rate by ordering from Gino’s Restaurant and Pizzeria in Bay Ridge. She is “all about the deals,” she said.
Although the special discounts could be extended until February 7th, eateries will be able to stay afloat as long as takeout and delivery orders continue to flow in after Restaurant Week.
Miguel Mondregon, manager of the Upper West Side’s Ella Social, is also taking part and is grateful to his customers. He said that the spot has been taken care of by loyal, repeat diners. “The neighborhood is really supportive to us,” he said.