Charlotte Restaurant Week rolls around twice a year – in the doldrums of summer and the depths of winter. This week, about 135 restaurants in and around Charlotte are participating in Queen’s Feast. They include many high-end restaurants and some neighborhood favorites, too – offering up three courses for a set price of $30 to $35.
It’s a way restaurants can drum up business at a slow time – and introduce themselves to some new diners. Kristen Wile, editor of the Charlotte food publication “Unpretentious Palate,” joined WFAE’s Lisa Worf to talk about Charlotte’s Restaurant Week.
Lisa Worf: Charlotte's first Restaurant Week was back 10 years ago. How has it grown since then?
Kristen Wile: It's grown a lot. There are so many restaurants now and it goes beyond Charlotte. You'll find a lot [of participating restaurants] in South Carolina. There are even some restaurants in Gastonia. I mean, you can find across the map there are restaurants far beyond Charlotte that are part of it. And you can find reservations for just about any cuisine, any neighborhood you want. You can find it.
Worf: So how successful has Queen's Feast been for restaurants as far as drumming up some business?
Wile: There are certain types of restaurants I think that it works best for. If you're new and you're trying to get some regulars and you want to bring people in to check you out, see what you're all about, understand your vibe [and] get your name out, it's really helpful. If you're a bigger restaurant and it's the time of year where you're trying to fill tables, it's really helpful for that as well.
So it's definitely a good way to get your name out there. A lot of times people will just kind of scroll through and look at menus or try and see if your reservations are available at times they want. I mean, a lot of people end up trying a place they may not have heard of or may not have tried before.
Worf: So a restaurant is hoping to attract a new diner that actually sticks around?
Worf: Does that happen that you may get someone returning a couple months later or a couple of weeks later?
Wile: Yeah, I think it does happen but it's tough because — you know — there are so many restaurants in Charlotte right now. And so I think what Restaurant Week is best for is when you're trying to try all these new places that you can't afford to try all at once or there's not enough time to try them all. You can really hit a lot of good restaurants and you can probably go to three of them for the price that you would normally spend at one restaurant. So I think it's helpful for that.
You know, when people go out for Restaurant Week, I think one thing that they don't quite get is that it's not a normal service for these restaurants. And so you're not quite getting the exact experience you would if you go there on an average night. People tend to feel a little bit more rushed with the three courses, so I wouldn't judge a restaurant just on that. But if you go there and one of the dishes is great or the service is great, I would recommend going back just because it's going to get better when things aren't as crazy.
So yeah, I think they do sometimes tend to get regulars from it. But I think a lot of times, it's more just trying to get that one week and bring in business and help out that one month when things might be a little slower otherwise.
Worf: Are there any dishes or new places that are piquing your palate — that you want to explore this restaurant week?
Wile: Yes. So one that I'm really excited about is NoDa Brewing. It's not a restaurant, right? They have a food truck and so what they're doing is they're taking their original tap room and converting it to a restaurant for the week. So they have Tin Kitchen there [and] they're doing a three-course menu. You sit down at the tables — it's kind of like their original tap room is a mini restaurant for the week.
One thing to look at is a place that's used to doing volume. [That’s] a good way to pick a restaurant because they're not going to be overwhelmed by the rush of people. So, you know, bigger restaurants can probably handle it a little bit better than places that may be overwhelmed by the [large amount of] people coming in that night.
Try something new. If you have a place you've been wanting to try or if there's somewhere that has kind of been a little bit out of the price range. If [there’s] something that just sounds interesting to you or something you're kind of scared to try, I would say go do that because you're not going to get a better chance to do it than a $30 dinner.
Related Link: You can find the list of restaurants participating in Queen's Feast here.
Disclosure: Queen's Feast is an underwriter of WFAE.