Good day, Feastlings.
Ah, the week we’re having. Despite a dishwasher’s bad back, a new hire’s bad timing, an upholsterer’s bad faith and a refrigerator’s bad everything, Feast is lurching awkwardly forward again. Not so much that we can reopen on Sundays just yet, nor so much that we can start up with the donation runs once more, but I’m pleased to report that my garage has lightened its load to the tune of two tables and three barstools, and it suddenly feels rather more like a restaurant in here. A stressful restaurant, but a restaurant. One little splash of normalcy is our first in-person-only Saturday wine tasting in two and a half years’
Not that we need to be back to normal all at once; it’s still September in Tucson, and we’re not even busy enough to use the second dining room every night, but if the whole staff keeps showing up and the interviewees on the calendar this week bear fruit, we’ll be able to handle what we hope is a miniature surge in business as we participate in Sonoran Restaurant Week, which, lucky for you all, is more than a week. Over a hundred restaurants in Tucson will be offering up one deal or another from today through a week from Sunday- at least those who can open on Sundays.
I have to say, as Tucsonans, we should appreciate Sonoran Restaurant Week. Those of us in the business are supremely grateful for any extra push during September, when people are tightening their belts because of school expenses, or wishing they could tighten their belts after over-indulging on whatever vacation they’ve returned from. Those of you who aren’t in the business can try a new place or visit an old favorite and save a few bucks. The link above will take you to our special discounted menu, and also to the Sonoran Restaurant Week website, which is now run by Tucson Foodie, whose new owner seems by all accounts to be a smart, friendly and collaborative sort, so we’re looking forward to it, and to seeing you sit at one of the tables or barstools that we’ve just dusted off, both figuratively and literally.
It’s a great event, and one that restores my faith in community- our community, specifically. Here’s a story I want to tell, cautiously:
I say I tell it cautiously because I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me- the Arizona Restaurant Association has long aided Arizona restaurants, and continues to do so. We were members for well over a decade, and they were there for us when staff needed training in sanitation practices, and when we needed group buying power as a small restaurant to purchase from behemoth distributors to be able to stay competitive with the chains. We’re not members anymore, though, and it’s because of Restaurant Week.
I’m for restaurant week anywhere- I’d happily travel to a big city during Restaurant Week, simply as an excuse to fit in a few extra exploratory meals where people at doing exciting new things- and in 2007, when Arizona suddenly had one, we were thrilled to participate. We did it for five years, and while a few curious souls found their way in, we raised an eyebrow each year at the fee the ARA was charging us to participate, and at the gift cards we had to donate as a part of the deal. The money and gift cards, they explained, were for marketing, which seemed a reasonable premise, so we kept doing it, but by the fifth year, curiosity got the better of me. I think there had been a news story or two, and I knew that Tucson wasn’t San Francisco, but the number of people coming through never was enough to fill the meager fifty-some seats in our old location, and certainly never enough to fill the hundred-plus seats we had here. So we checked. The marketing dollars that we Tucson restaurants had contributed were indeed spent on marketing. In Phoenix.
Again: The ARA does great things for restaurants from Douglas to Bullhead City. But there’s the occasional Tucsonan who doesn’t think it’s reasonable to use Tucson and Flagstaff money to subsidize the marketing of Phoenix restaurants, and I count myself among them. We opted out, grudgingly, both of Restaurant Week, and of the Restaurant Association.
Four years ago, a bunch of upstarts decided to give it a go all over again, this time with an emphasis on Southern Arizona. And guess what? People came and checked us out. I’d venture to guess they checked all the restaurants out. The pandemic followed, but there was Takeout Restaurant Week, and Semi-normal Restaurant Week after that, and this year brings us Slightly More Normal Restaurant Week. There are over 100 Tucson restaurants offering a deal this week, and if you look at Arizona Restaurant Week, you’ll discover maybe 25 more restaurants in the greater Phoenix are than in little bitty Tucson. The Country Mouse that Roared. What’s more, if you look at participating restaurants from Tucson under the Arizona umbrella, as of this afternoon, you’ll find one. And it’s a chain.
So today I write to tell you that it’s easier to support your local restaurant than it is not to, and they’ll support you back with a deal.
Doug and all your other friends at Feast