Restaurants say they're ready as county announces expansion of annual program
Even though it was for only a week, Robin’s Nest participated and attracted many more customers, some of whom came for the first time to take advantage of special prices.
Now sisters Robin Winzinger, the head chef, and Audrey Winzinger, the marketing manager, are thrilled the initiative, meant to highlight and promote the county's diverse dining scene, is expanding to a twice-a-year program.
The Burlington County Commission and state Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, co-sponsors of the restaurant week program, recently announced they'll host upcoming restaurant weeks in late winter and late summer. This year's dates are March 5 to 11 and Aug. 20 to Aug. 26.
To date, 21 restaurants have signed up for the March event, according to the county website.
"Things that week really take off and we have high hopes again for this year," Audrey Winzinger said.
Cucina Carini manager Anthony Keen said not only has the family Italian restaurant in Mount Laurel been busy during past restaurant weeks, but he's also seen repeat customers who first visited during the program.
“I don’t know all their names, but we see them,” he said, adding that he welcomes the county decision to expand the program to two weeks and help promote the events.
Last year, Braddock’s Tavern manager Peter Dickinson opted to keep his price-fixed dinner and other specials on the menu for an extra week after the program week to afford more opportunity for people to discover his restaurant and has offered different specials each year to keep diners interested.
And the restaurant weeks will extend beyond restaurants and diners. Also participating are coffee shops like Evermore Coffee Roasters in Burlington City; pizza and sandwich shops like Angelo’s Pizza in Mount Laurel; wineries like Iron Plow Vineyard in Springfield and its satellite tasting room in Mount Holly; bagel shops like Bagelati in Evesham and Cinnaminson, as well as bakeries and even food trucks.
Richard Spaulding of Burlington City, who has restaurant development management experience in various parts of New Jersey and is currently president of Main Street Burlington business organization, said there are a lot of good restaurants in the county. Some are in downtowns like Medford and Medford Lakes or along Delaware Riverfront towns like Burlington City and Bordentown, but others are spread out and sometimes much farther away to get to because of the county's size.
"But we are not Haddonfield, Collingswood or Cherry Hill, which are in proximity of each other and in a more populated region with more restaurants," Spaulding said
Burlington County Commission Director Felicia Hopson said the addition of a second week follows the event’s rapid growth and success during the past four years.
“A record 75 restaurants participated in last year’s Restaurant Week — which was about the same number as Philadelphia’s Center City Restaurant Week — making it one of our biggest business promotions yet,” she noted.
It was Hopson who initiated the creation of the first county restaurant week in 2019 to help promote and support Burlington County restaurants and their employees. The program continued during the pandemic as take-out meals became more popular.
“The feedback we’ve received has been incredible and we’re encouraging our residents to mark their calendars and plan for a double-dose of food and fun this year," she said.