Eat up: Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week starts Friday

Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week begins tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 19, with 10 days of festivities that celebrate more than 20 eateries in downtown Cleveland.

The Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA) has been hosting the event for 12 years to lure customers to the restaurants during the cold winter months. But Heather Holmes, DCA vice president of marketing and public relations, said this year it is more important than ever because of the pandemic.

“We encourage people to try a new place or support their favorite,” says Holmes.

Participating restaurants are offering a variety of special prices—for either take-out or to dine-in—making it perfect for any occasion. Choices include family meals and lunch deliveries for working professionals.

“If you haven’t been downtown in a while and you have some of your favorites, now is an excellent time to go and patronize those establishments so when we get back to some potential normalcy, those establishments are still there,” says Holmes.

In previous years Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week has attracted people from out of town, along with an increase in locals eating out. Holmes mentions that they saw the highest number of participating restaurants in 2016 at around 50, but she is still hopeful the event will attract business.

“This year, yes there is a smaller number of folks participating, but that’s okay, we hope to see a larger impact on those who agreed to participate this year,” she says.

With participating restaurants being flexible in their offerings—with a wider variety of options—Holmes hopes more residents will take advantage of the deals during their lunch hour or will consider picking up food for their offices.

Restaurants and eateries participate by choice, signing up on DCA’s restaurant sign-up page. They then receive special stickers advertising Restaurant Week on their to-go orders, flyers to remind customers about the event, and branded artwork.

The restaurant will also be promoted on DCA’s various social media accounts and can leverage gift cards as prizes.

It comes with no surprise that hospitality and tourism businesses have taken a hit since COVID-19 hit hard last March, and Holmes says one of the biggest struggles Cleveland restaurants have had is with staffing. She says it’s a fine line to walk with staffing when customer traffic is sporadic and slow, or curfews and quarantines close the establishments.

“With the uncertainty of people’s comfort level for dine-in or take out, it is a formula to staff [restaurants],” she says.

Holmes also believes that Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s curfew lift, a week ago, on Thursday, Feb.11 was a “step in the right direction” for the spots that see a later crowd and to help spread out times visitors are staying.

Read more articles by Jylian Herring.

Jylian Herring is a current journalism student at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She has previously worked with two student-run campus magazines and is also a member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority. She enjoys writing about topics such as social justice and locally owned businesses. When Jylian isn't giving her time to one of her student organizations, she likes to listen to podcasts and try new restaurants.