BITE SIZE: Sunday's Devon House-hosted launch was a flavourful mix of sellers and buyers, samples and giveaways.
Over the course of its 13 years, Restaurant Week has come to represent more than just dining out and discounts for the scores of Jamaicans who pencil it into their schedules year after year. For Christopher Barnes, Managing Director of the RJR/Gleaner Group, the media giants who helped to catapult the brand into the stratosphere, it’s a godsend for the local food industry.
“It’s an opportunity for commercial stimulation, economic stimulation and for Jamaicans and visitors to enjoy the culinary culture. It’s a chance for families to get together and celebrate. During Restaurant Week, it’s about getting people to go out and support the restaurants and provide a financial boost for the food industry,” Barnes says. “After 13 years, we’re a fixture on the social calendar, providing a little pre-Christmas jump for the restaurants. It’s like they’re having Christmas in November.”
With some 92 eateries across eight parishes participating this year (some offering up to 30% discount on meals), RW is enjoying its largest complement yet. But that’s not the only thing that’s new about the 2017 instalment. For the first time, a free-to-the-public launch kicked things off. “This is the new big thing. It’s like taking Restaurant Week to the streets,” dished founder Stephanie Scott, standing by her SSCO Events booth on Sunday at Devon House, where the launch took place.
Several food purveyors and other exhibitors gave patrons a sampling of what can be expected when they come out in their numbers starting this weekend. “We start the week on Friday, so this is a warm-up to get people psyched and ready to dig in,” Scott said. “We have new places like Old Harbour, Spanish Town and Portmore participating, in addition to the regular towns of Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. And we have lots more options – Jamaican, Chinese, Asian, Indian, Mediterranean.”
For a proprietor like Yvonne Anderson, nothing beats the blend of fresh faces and satisfied patrons. “We get a lot of new customers during Restaurant Week and they usually leave very happy,” says Anderson, owner of the Kingston-based Triple T’z, which won this year’s Jamaica Observer Food Awards prize for Best Lunch Spot.
In addition to the commercial/economic stimulation and culinary delights, there is a philanthropic side to Restaurant Week. “For years now we’ve been partnering with Y.U.T.E and the HEART Trust to provide jobs for young people at some of the participating restaurants during the week,” Scott explained. “And what happens is that some of them get jobs for the rest of the year and some are taken on permanently. Redbones and Suzie’s, for example, still have a few of the Y.U.T.E trainees on their staff years later.”