Restaurant Week is serious business for local eateries

CHAMBERSBURG – ChambersFest hits the ground running with the Tim and Susan Cook Memorial Race, and it goes out in a blaze with a re-enactment of the Burning of Chambersburg. For the seven days in between, we feast.

The fifth annual Restaurant Week runs from July 10-17, and it features more than 40 restaurants throughout Franklin County. Participating restaurants will serve up unique cuisines and specials to showcase the best dining the region has to offer.

The event is coordinated by the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce as an initiative to get people excited about the region’s culinary offerings.

As an added incentive, the Chamber will also be giving away approximately $500 worth of gift cards to local restaurants. To be eligible to win, customers – whether they choose to dine-in, get take out or have their food delivered – are asked to take a picture of their meal and post it to the ChambersFest Restaurant Week Facebook page.

“As a Chamber of Commerce, we’re always looking for ways to encourage people to spend their money locally and to go to local businesses,” said Laiton Heckman, communications assistant with the Chamber. “Having this incentivized festival makes a bigger deal of it and encourages people to visit the local restaurants.”

“Business begets business,” said Heckman of the Chamber’s strategy to generate awareness for the restaurants through traditional marketing of the event, word-of-mouth from satisfied customers and social media buzz generated by the user-submitted photos on social media. “That constant circulation of money in the local economy is really important.”

2021 presents the dual challenge of coaxing wary customers back to the restaurants they love and getting them to try some new options as well.

“I hope Restaurant Week encourages somebody to try a new place, and then discover that they absolutely love the place and come back again and again.”

Laiton Heckman

For the Chamber of Commerce, planning Restaurant Week is always “on the schedule,” because it coincides with ChambersFest, but every spring Heckman starts talking to as many restaurants as she can in order to recruit participants. There are advertisements to produce (for the customers), promotional materials to print (for the restaurants) and gift cards to be collected (for the giveaway).

Last year, Restaurant Week was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the effects of the pandemic are still evident, but things are opening back up. Heckman has adjusted the plan accordingly.

“Everyone was focused on promoting takeout, so we did post cards,” she said of the Chamber’s strategy in 2020. “We had 10,000 post cards printed to give to the restaurants and their customers. This year we switched to what we had done before that, which was menu inserts because some restaurants are moving their way back to using menus.”

Things might feel closer to normal for customers, but for the restaurants – and other local businesses – the damage caused throughout 2020 could take a long time to recover from.

“Especially as the whole economy in the US and locally is still recovering from COVID, visiting local restaurants and patronizing local businesses is more important than ever,” said Heckman.

Monica Mata Campos, manager of Veroni Café (12 W. King St.), is hoping to make the most of Restaurant Week. As of July 10, the restaurant was offering food for takeout or outdoor dining.

“With COVID, we shut down everything,” said Campos. “We’re hoping that by Restaurant Week we’ll be back to dine-in.”   

Veroni has participated in Restaurant Week before, and Campos is looking forward to the foot traffic and a return to normalcy.

“It has gone pretty well,” she said of previous years. “Those types of events drive a lot of people to downtown, and people can get together, which is awesome.”

Amer Chaudhry, owner and head chef of Falafel Shack (9 N. Main St.), has participated in two previous Restaurant Weeks.

“We did notice a difference,” said Chaudhry.

“A lot of people came to downtown for Restaurant Week. They come to our business and other local businesses and restaurants, so it’s usually a good week.”

Amer Chaudhry

One of the specials that Falafel Shack will be serving up during Restaurant Week is their made-from-scratch, handmade pierogies. “We’ll start at lunch, at 11:00, until we sell out,” he said.

Falafel Shack also has a wood-fired pizza truck that allows them to take their pizza to the people for events and promotions. On Old Market Day, the truck will be parked in front of their restaurant’s location in Chambersburg’s Memorial Square.

“I would definitely say that [Restaurant Week] has grown in the past couple of years,” said Laiton Heckman. “We have seen an increase in the number of restaurants participating every year, and I would love to see that continue and get even more restaurants in the future.”

Restaurant Week is the event that keeps the ChambersFest party going all week long by generating excitement for local businesses throughout Franklin County that culminates in Old Market Day and the re-enactment of the Burning of Chambersburg.

“That’s another thing we love about Restaurant Week – it gives ChambersFest a little bit of an extra something that lasts all week instead of just one day,” she said.”

Hopefully, the months of preparation, the post cards, the menu inserts and the pictures on social media will all be enough to keep the regulars regular and the intrepid foodies discovering new restaurants all year long.

After the Old Market Day tents come down and the town has successfully been burned to the ground (again), the restaurants will still be here.

But only if Chambersburgers show up.

Participating restaurants include: Bistro 71, Fuddruckers, Kenny’s Grill & Ice Cream, The Market at Trickling Springs, Meadows Frozen Custard, Roy Pitz Brewing Co., Subway (Norland Ave. and Wayne Ave.), Sweet Rollers, TBC Brewing Co., Teriyaki Madness, The Orchards and RELAX Lounge, Veroni Café, Avocado Café, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream & Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, Caretti’s Pizza (Rt. 11), Denim Coffee Co., Falafel Shack, Giacomo’s Italian Restaurant, Grill Kabab, Hoss’s Steak & Sea House, Jordyn’s Caffe, Korean Bulgogi House, Main Street Deli, Maria & Sal’s Pizzeria, Mario’s Italian Restaurant, Norland Pub, Norland Grille, Sakura Japanese Restaurant, Volcano Japanese Restaurant.

Restaurant Week is presented by Penn National Insurance.

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