Face Time – Samantha Dennis on creating community buzz

Posted on Oct 1, 2015 :: Face Time
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Photo courtesy: Bill Kapinski

Fox Cities Restaurant Week is an initiative of young professionals. Some of us happen to own our own businesses in the creative economy and some just have incredible passion about this area and have no problem rolling up our sleeves and making it happen.

The goal is to highlight the culinary part of our creative class here in the Fox Cities and to get people out to try something new.

The summer is one of the most difficult times for restaurants because of vacations and people grilling outdoors. We chose this week in particular because it’s back to school — people are eating in a little more and dealing with new schedules for their kids. It incentivizes people to go out. You’re also getting a really amazing value for your meal.

All 29 participating restaurants were locally-owned in this community. Restaurants provided a three-course, fixed-priced menu which was $12 for lunch with a value of $20; a price of either $25 or $35 for dinner, which was a value of $35 or $50 respectively. They were able to do what they chose, they were all required to feature starters, entrees and desserts and they had to have a minimum of two options per category and a maximum of four. They were able to use their culinary creativity.

It was incredibly successful — very well received from the community. We got 6,000 completed surveys back and received a lot of positive feedback. I own an event planning company called Styling Accordingly, working with nonprofits, small businesses, corporations and weddings with clients in the Appleton area as well as Milwaukee. My role with Fox Cities Restaurant Week was the event lead; I took on all the components of logistics and project management.

There are successful restaurant weeks in Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay. A group of young professionals got together and said why don’t we do it here? We decided to put our creative brains and talent and skill sets together and create one for our community on our own. We also worked with A2Z Design on the branding and BConnected on social media; we partnered with N.E.W. Printing, Fox Communities Credit Union, Tundraland and Nutritional Healing. Pulse (young professionals group) was also a part of it from a promotional perspective.

We began in the middle of June with a meeting with all the restaurants that submitted their interest. Each provided a $50 gift certificate as an incentive to get feedback from surveys from the diners. They paid a fee to cover logistics, printing, branding and our advertising costs.

The website — restaurantweekfc.com — listed all the participating restaurants, their address, hours and contact info in addition to their menu. You could go online and map out where you wanted to eat.

One big thing we did was our “hunger week” special promotion with Tundraland (home improvement company). We asked restaurants to offer something not on their menu and it was called the hunger special. A lot of people are into taking food selfies. We asked people to upload those to social media, and if we had more than 500 Tundraland would feed a family for the rest of the year. We had over 1,300 photos submitted. We’re partnering with a local nonprofit that will identify the family and administer it through groceries, gift cards or a
food pantry.

There will be a Fox Cities Restaurant Week in 2016, probably in August, and we hope there will be more restaurants and community partners involved.

Margaret LeBrun

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →