COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – The 5th annual Columbus Restaurant week kicked off today with twenty participating eateries even as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic pummels the food service industry.
As the week-long celebration of the Columbus culinary scene goes forward, with special menus and drink offerings, the experience for diners and restaurant workers will be different this year due to the virus.
“This year looks a little bit different,” said Gabby Wilson, Director of Buzz at Yalla Public Relations, which hosts the event. “We had to adapt.”
Yalla made two key adaptations. The first was to focus on take-away options.
“We’re in the middle of a global health crisis,” Wilson said, “and what we wanted to do is be able to offer all of the same luxuries of Restaurant Week, but from the comfort of your own home.”
Wilson understands some people are uncomfortable eating out in public, and says participating restaurants are offering dining options so everyone can enjoy the week.
“We’re not blind to that concern right now. We are offering take-out from all of our restaurants, and the majority are offering curb-side pickup,” Wilson said.
Denise Stickney, a partner at Vertigo Fusion Kitchen and two other participating restaurants, said, “We will offer curb-sides, to-go, as well as delivery. So that’s the difference we have this year. Where before you would come in and eat, you can actually have it to go.”
For restaurant workers, the difference is more than logistical. Many local restaurants are fighting for their lives.
“It’s more important this year than any other year,” Stickney said, “especially for our small businesses because we have been struggling.”
The second adaptation Yalla made was to waive participation fees for all restaurants.
“Typically every year, each restaurant would buy in to Restaurant Week,” Wilson said. “They would pay a flat fee. We would use that fee to donate to The Giving Kitchen.”
The Giving Kitchen is an Atlanta-based non-profit that helps food service workers pay their bills when they are out of work based on need.
Restaurant Week will still raise $2,000 for The Giving Kitchen this year, Wilson told News 3. Yalla makes this possible by adding additional sponsors.
For a full list of participating restaurants, their menus, and event sponsors, visit Yalla’s website.