KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After a grueling year financially for restaurants in the Kansas City metro, there’s now a potential bright spot. About 175 of Kansas City’s best eateries are celebrating the 12th annual Restaurant Week.
It almost didn’t happen, but restaurant owners who are operating under reduced capacity limitations were anxious to give it a try. And after just a few days, orders are way up as customers rush to support their favorite restaurants.
“This is amazing,” said Julio Juarez, executive chef of JJ’s Restaurant on the Plaza.
Friday night was as busy as it has been in a long while. Juarez is offering some of his best dishes to customers during Restaurant Week, which runs January 8-17.
“We have some Chicken Marsala, which is classic from JJ’s, and Iceland Cod right here, and some Wild Boar Pasta Ragu, along with Chocolate Ganache for dessert,” he told FOX4.
Restaurants are offering a two-course meal for $15 at lunch and a three-course meal for $35 or $45 for dinner. More than 100 restaurants are offering their deals for carryout or delivery.
In 2020, COVID-19 dealt restaurants a devastating blow. According to the National Restaurant Association, 15% of eateries across the country had to shut down. Bill Teel, executive director of the Greater Kanas City Restaurant Association, said small mom and pop restaurants were hit the hardest.
The survivors made radical adjustments.
“Restaurants have adapted. They offer curbside delivery in a lot of cases to be able to survive and make it through this whole pandemic,” Teel said.
In-person dining has also changed. Some restaurants installed new air filtration systems. Tables are spread apart or sit empty, allowing only a fraction of the diners that last year’s Restaurant Week accommodated.
“I think we used to do 170 seats, but now we can do about 40, so about 25%,” Chaz on the Plaza’s executive chef Shawn Hartwig said.
So if you want to try the Boar Head Pasta at JJ’s or you can’t wait to sink your teeth into the Fritz Burger at Chaz, make reservations, especially on the weekends.
“If you don’t have a reservation, you aren’t getting in tonight,” Hartwig said with a smile on Saturday. “Our brunch is full today, and good luck with tomorrow, so I’ll see you on Monday or Tuesday.”
Luckily, there’s a KC Restaurant Week app where you can browse menus, make reservations and check to see who’s offering carryout or delivery specials.
“We kind of wanted to celebrate getting 2020 behind us and hopefully move ahead to a happier 2021. We want to show everyone that we can celebrate and do it safely,” Teel said.
Some of the proceeds from Restaurant Week go toward the Don Boscoe Centers. The center delivers Meals on Wheels to elderly shut-ins. Last year, donations were down, and the number of those who need service is way up. The revenue will allow the deliveries to continue.