Hudson Valley Restaurant Week (HVRW) means big business for many area eateries, with hundreds of thousands of diners descending on more than 200 participating locations from November 2 to 15. Many Westchester-based restaurants get in on the action with special menus, reduced prices, and unusual dishes. We asked some of the area’s top eateries whether HVRW is an enduring boon to the bottom line, or merely a flash in the pan.
According to star chef and Food Network regular Michael Psilakis, HVRW provides a considerable bump for the Irvington location of his restaurant, MP Taverna, during a time when business can be slow. “We offer both lunch and dinner for Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, and we probably see about double the reservation numbers,” notes Psilakis. “Restaurant Week brings more people down at a time when there’s typically a lot less traffic.”
Michael Psilakis knows the promotional value of word of mouth. Photograph by Andre Baranowksi
Psilakis also notes that HVRW provides an excellent opportunity to reach a wider audience. “I think it’s a great way to introduce the restaurant to new people,” he says. “It’s always great to bring in first-time diners and I think the Restaurant Week marketing platform is great.”
Andy Nusser, Executive Chef and Partner at the Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, agrees with Psilakis on both counts. “We have historically seen sales increases from previous restaurant weeks, and the event particularly helps us increase weekday lunch sales,” says Nusser. “Ideally, our hopes are to bring in new guests that would not normally dine with us, have them enjoy our inspired seasonal food, and then return as regular customers.”
MP Taverna’s Irvington dining room. Photograph by Oleg March
But the questions remains: does this increased traffic always translate into an upturn in repeat customers, or do diners simply show up for the deals? When asked for her perspective, Audrey Hochroth, co-owner of Augie’s Prime Cut in Mohegan Lake, says that it is a balance of the two. “Honestly, we see both,” remarks Hochroth. “We have guests that just come in for the discount, and in the past we have gained customers from HVRW. In the end, it’s a win for everyone. They enjoy a good meal and we’ve expanded our reach.”
This sentiment is echoed by Justin Montgomery, owner of the lauded Dobbs Ferry restaurant Harper’s Restaurant and Bar, who notes that it is “hard to say for sure” whether diners return but that, in the end, it is worth the increased exposure.
Lower prices are not the only draw. Special dishes are also a major enticement, with many restaurants offering a dedicated restaurant week menu full of inventive plates. Among Tarry Lodge’s HVRW offerings is a roasted butternut soup and Sicilian meatballs with polenta, while Augie’s will add options like short rib ravioli and seafood bisque. Meanwhile, MP Taverna will serve up dishes including an heirloom bean and black kale soup along with local Hudson Valley trout. Psilakis notes that even fish and chicken dishes on the standard menu become increasingly popular over the week.
Augie’s short rib ravioli off of their Restaurant Week menu
This uptick in sales also means a boost to employment in the area’s dining sector. “We have to increase our staffing and gear up because we have a lot of reservations,” says Psilakis.
For some businesses, however, the lower prices translate into a short-term negative but a potential long-term positive. “Short-term it’s not particularly lucrative,” says Montgomery of the event. “We offer the same size portions as our regular a la carte menu, so we do take a bit of a hit. The hope is that we are introducing people to the ‘Harper’s experience,’ and whether they come back, or they tell a friend who tells a friend, we’re exposing ourselves to future business.”
He adds, “Word of mouth is priceless.”