Bruce Hensley coordinates Queen’s Feast, also known as Charlotte Restaurant Week. The semi-annual dining extravaganza runs Friday, January 20 through Sunday, January 29. If you haven’t participated, the gist is tons of “upscale” restaurants around town (104 this year) offer a three-course “prix fixe” dinner menu for $30. Usually that means you’re picking an appetizer, entree and dessert from a set menu. It can be a great opportunity to try new restaurants at a reduced price. It’s a very popular event, so reservations are highly recommended. Bruce and I talked about what Charlotte diners and restaurateurs get out of the deal. [Edited for brevity and clarity.]
WFAEats: How are the restaurants chosen?
We invite about 150-160 restaurants each time to participate. They need to be upscale restaurants that are willing to put forth at least three courses for $30. The value of that meal needs to be in the $45 – $55 range. It has to be a great value for the customer. Diners get to enjoy great deals and dine outside of their typical geographic and economic footprint.
WFAEats: What do the restaurants get out of it?
We do Restaurant Week in late January and again in mid-July, which are slow periods for the restaurants. It’s a win for them, because they’re getting trial business, cash flow that they normally wouldn’t have and they’re keeping employees working during the slow period. We survey the restaurants afterward and most of the places say they see about 75% new faces during Restaurant Week and they do see repeat business as a result.
WFAEats: So with lower prices, do restaurants take a hit?
It’s not a big money maker [for the restaurant,] but through volume and trial and additionally cash flow, it’s certainly worth their while. In July  we served over 80,000 dinners during the 10 day period, at an estimated $4 million economic impact [for Charlotte.]
WFAEats: Are the participating restaurants generally swamped with people?
Some of the more popular, high-end restaurants are quite swamped because that’s typically a special event occasion for some of the dining public. They look at it as a chance to get three courses for $30 where typically the entrée alone would cost $30. We encourage people to go to some of the locally-owned, independent restaurants as well. Because there are some really nice ‘hidden jewels’ out there.
WFAEats: How do restaurants choose their menus for Restaurant Week?
We encourage them to include items that are typical for their restaurant. Because if you do something different, then you’re not really showing who you are and what you are. Some will tweak it a tad but for the most part they pull from their regular menu. Some put their entire menu on there and say ‘pick one’ from appetizers, entrees and desserts.
For more information check out Charlotte Restaurant Week to find out who’s participating, locations and menus. Reservations are strongly encouraged.
This story originally ran in January 2011.