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?