Restaurant week is a big hit on Long Island

Over time and especially in recent years, the concept of a restaurant week has become a nationwide phenomenon.  These events allow local restaurants to garner business and publicity, especially during periods when business is slower.   In 2006, restaurant week in Long Island became an annual event, until the spring of Apr. 2011, when a second edition of the week-long event was added due to popular demand.  In Jan. 2016, a third restaurant week was established, making it a tri-annual occurrence.  The event became a major hit amongst both locals and tourists, allowing diners to sample a variety of dishes from different restaurants at a more affordable price.  Port Washington recently had their Restaurant Week from Oct. 16 to Oct. 23, but many eaters don’t know the history behind this tradition on Long Island. 

“This is a classic win-win for patrons and restaurant owners alike…an opportunity to get these people into your restaurants, perhaps for the first time experiencing your food, service, and atmosphere,” said president of Long Island Restaurant and Hospitality Group and operator of the event, Steve Haweeli to Long Island News.

Tim Zagat, the creator of the Zagat Survey, and Joe Baum, a famous New York restaurateur, are founders of the Restaurant Week project and began the plan in New York City as just a lunch-only promotional event.  The New York project has evolved significantly since 1992, when it lasted for only four days with under 100 participants.  This summer, 658 restaurants participated in New York City’s Restaurant Week, offering two-course lunches and three-course dinners ranging from around $30 to $60.

The inspiration for Long Island Restaurant Week came from the earlier developed Hamptons Restaurant Week and its precursor New York City plan.  Long Island Restaurant & Hospitality Group is one of Long Island’s top hospitality PR firms, and Restaurant Week’s operator.  LI Restaurant Week attained impressive numbers for its first year with total restaurant revenue estimated to be $2,848,200.  During the middle of the week, restaurants reported reservations to be up from 40% to 100%, and an increase in revenue of up to 200% from the promotion. 

In the past few years, some notable Port Washington restaurants that have consistently participated in Restaurant Week include Gino’s Pizzeria, The Wild Goose, Waterzooi, Wild Honey On Main, and Louie’s Grille & Liquors.  While these are local favorites, Restaurant Week pushes diners to try new restaurants and cuisines.  Some popular destinations on Long Island for eaters during Restaurant Week include Monroe’s Restaurant and Juniper in Westbury, 1221 in Roslyn, and Page at 63 Main in Sag Harbor. 

“Restaurant week is bringing tourism to the restaurant and bringing new customers, and hopefully repeat customers,” said the owner of Pig & Khao Leah Cohen to Business Insider. 

In the midst of the COVID pandemic, restaurants became closed for indoor service and revenues dropped immensely.  Restaurant Week organizers decided to expand the program by allowing options for outdoor dining and shifting towards a delivery or take-out service.  This helped many restaurants slightly recover from losses due to the pandemic.  On Long Island, changes included adding a $20 two-course prix fixe lunch as well as a $25 or $35 three-course dinner menu.  A portion of the earnings was donated to countering food insecurity across Long Island with the help of Island Harvest Food Bank.

“Restaurant Week is always super fun.  My family and I love to experiment with new restaurants, and I strongly recommend taking advantage of this event because it is a great way to try new cuisines,” said senior Layla Hershkowitz. 

Long Island Restaurant Week received numerous awards such as the Big Apple Award in Marketing Consumer Services and The Holmes Group for superior achievement in branding and reputation.  Plans for the next Restaurant Week in 2023 are not far off, as many diners across the island begin looking forward to the winter edition.