On Edmonton’s Downtown Dining Week

Both Edmonton and Calgary’s Dining Week participants and menus were released this week, but the similarities of the events end there:

  • Edmonton has 23 participating restaurants vs. Calgary’s 81
  • Calgary has a separate webpage to promote Dine Out Calgary, with an easy-to-read format, a brief description of the restaurant, and a link to the establishment’s website
  • Calgary offers a lunch series with local critic John Gilchrist, going above and beyond just meals
  • Price points are controlled in Calgary (and I believe remain the same from last year) – $25 for lunch and $35 for dinner (with a few restaurants offering $85 “gourmet” tastings). Edmonton, on the other hand, increased their price points in a year when people may be looking at controlling their spending – $15 for lunch, and though there are some $25 dinner options, the majority are $50 prix fixe meals.

I know comparing events doesn’t solve anything, but it’s hard to swallow the fact that Edmonton’s sixth attempt at promoting restaurants in the core hasn’t improved over the years. Yes, Calgary’s advantage is a city-wide event, and one without competition from a “rival” restaurant group (Original Fare’s Fork Fest), but I’d like to hope that the Downtown Business Association (DBA) at least considers ways to enhance their event, and looking to our southern neighbour doesn’t seem like much of a stretch.

There has been discussion for some time on Connect2Edmonton’s forums about Downtown Dining Week, mostly centering on DBA’s poor promotion of the event, and restaurants’ inconsistency with offering their deals. I know I’ve run into this – I had a horrible experience at Ric’s Grill last year (I was told I had to pre-order the Dining Week menu over the phone, while my friend, the night prior, was given the menu without question).

I know I’ve said before that Edmonton doesn’t have much of a restaurant culture when contrasted with Calgary, but that’s why I think events such as Downtown Dining Week must be utilized as best as possible. Those who already do their best to eat at local and independent establishments will naturally know about this promotion – but it’s the DBA’s job to get in the face of those who rarely venture beyond their favourite chain and encourage them to eat outside their comfort zone.

What say you, Downtown Business Association?

6 thoughts on “On Edmonton’s Downtown Dining Week

  1. I didn’t know Calgary’s Dining Week was such a big event… it sounds great.

    I’m disappointed with the promotion of the DBA’s event as well… I didn’t really look into it at all until I saw the mention of it in your last Food Notes.

    Calgary’s price scheme sounds far better. Offering $50 dollar meals is not a way to get people into restaurants they’ve never tried, especially restaurants downtown (I think there is a bit of a stereotype about restaurants downtown, and downtown in general, in the first place). Even if they looked at Fork Fest’s price points, I think the event could be more patron friendly.

  2. I have to say that I was very much looking forward to the Downtown Dining Week (as I do for most food festivles) but was shocked at the price increase this year. Although there are many places on the list that I wanted to try I am not to sure we will be participating. I usually use these festvles as a chance to get a group of friends together for a nice affordable night on the town but since most people I know are watching thier frivolous spending right now I doubt very much that any of them would be up for spending $100+ on a general night out 😦

  3. I agree with Bellavino. With Fork Fest price points being $20 or $35, it is a lot easier to justify a nice evening out with friends. Almost all of my friends would balk at a starting price of $50 (which would only go up with drinks). I had the fortune of being in Calgary years ago for their downtown dining week and recall thinking that it was fancy, but it also felt like a deal.

  4. We travel all over the world for business, prices for meals are not an issue We are always surprised when we eat out in Edmonton that restaurants charge far too much for what they are serving. That explains why restaurants are empty on a saturday when they should be rocking all the hours of operation ,Restauranteurs Have to wake up!!!Travel ,research on-line it’s foolish business sence. The smart people with $ are not going to return after getting hosed 25.00 for a three dollar meal served by a untrained server

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