Hanover Restaurant Week draws locals

by Mika Jehoon Lee | 1/5/18 2:05am

The 4th annual Hanover Area Restaurant Week brought special menus and discounts to local restaurants from Dec. 2 to Dec. 10. Organized by the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce, the promotional event aimed to introduce Upper Valley residents to restaurants in Hanover and Norwich.

Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Tracy Hutchins said Restaurant Week usually takes place during the first week in December in conjunction with “Celebrate the Season,” a two-day holiday hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. During Restaurant Week, participating restaurants offer diners either a fixed percentage discount on all their menu items or a special fixed-price menu comprised of old favorites and new dishes, Hutchins said. In 2017, seven restaurants participated in Restaurant Week: Bistro at Six, Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery, Molly’s Restaurant, Jasper Murdock’s Alehouse at the Norwich Inn, Pine Restaurant, Salt Hill Pub and The Skinny Pancake.

According to Hutchins, the College’s extended winter interim period motivated the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce to create Restaurant Week.

“That time frame since the College changed its scheduling as to when the students left for winter break affected the downtown merchants and the local businesses greatly,” she said. “When the College goes on break, a great number of students, staff and faculty leave, so there was a definite drop in holiday shopping that local businesses — both the retailers and the restaurants — saw.”

In response to the rising cost of plane tickets and faculty members’ desire to host classes without pause, the College implemented changes to the fall term calender in the 2012-13 academic year that extended the winter interim period to six weeks.

Hutchins added that another reason for the creation of Hanover Area Restaurant Week is that the larger, statewide New Hampshire Restaurant Week focuses its advertising on restaurants near the seacoast or in large cities, such as Manchester and Concord. This year, the New Hampshire Restaurant Week ran from March 24 to 31.

“Even if we had restaurants in [the] Upper Valley participating in the statewide restaurant week, our residents didn’t know [New Hampshire Restaurant Week] was taking place because none of the advertising dollars were reaching them,” Hutchins said. “So we decided that we should hold our own and do a concentrated focus that would put the spotlight on our restaurants — what’s happening here in Hanover.”

Hutchins said that participating restaurants have seen increased sales during the event and have consequently opted in year after year.

“[Restaurant Week] comes at a time when [the restaurants] could really use the boost,” she said. “[At the] beginning of December right after Thanksgiving, holiday shopping season is on and you have holiday parties, but people may not necessarily go out to eat because they are already planning to spend money on holiday gifts.”

The Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce spent more on marketing for the event in 2017 than in past years, Hutchins said. It invested in a banner spanning Main Street, advertised the event through social media and ran advertisements on Great Eastern Radio. Hutchins said she hopes the increased marketing efforts led to higher participation from Upper Valley residents and a rise in restaurant sales.

“I’m anxious to see what our final numbers are — I am hoping that this year, there was more participation than in years past,” Hutchins said.

Jennifer Galvin, general manager at Salt Hill Pub, said the pub has participated in Restaurant Week for the three years she has been at the restaurant because the event attracts new customers.

“The Hanover Chamber of Commerce does a lot of advertising for the event, so it hits people [who] don’t necessarily see our advertising,” Galvin said. “It’s also fairly slow at Hanover [during the winter interim period], so anything that brings people in is greatly appreciated.”

Galvin added that the event also allows restaurants to test revamped menu items by adding them to the special menu.

“[Restaurant Week] is fun for my cooks because they get to try things they wouldn’t normally do,” she said.

On the other hand, Jasper Murdock’s Alehouse offered diners a discount on its regular dinner menu instead of a special menu, according to Norwich Inn’s food and beverage manager Linda Kane.

Kane said the restaurant has continued to participate in Restaurant Week because it was effective in publicizing the restaurant during the holiday season.

“[Restaurant Week] worked great for us and we did better this year than last year,” Kane said.

Hutchins said she hopes on behalf of the Hanover Chamber of Commerce that more restaurants will participate in Hanover Area Restaurant Week in the future.

“There is a misconception that you have to be a sit-down type of establishment to benefit, but in the past we’ve had pizza places and sandwich shops participate and we are open to that,” Hutchins said. “So hopefully we are going to grow this both in terms of public awareness of the event and the number of restaurants that participate.”