Hanover hosts its fifth annual Restaurant Week

by Jennie Rhodes | 1/10/19 3:10am

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by Michael Lin and Michael Lin / The Dartmouth

From Dec. 8 to 15, Hanover held the town’s fifth annual Restaurant Week. During this week, restaurants in the Upper Valley created special fixed-price menus or offered special discounts on food items to bring in more customers during the slow dining season.

Restaurant Week began as a statewide event, organized by the Restaurant Association of New Hampshire. However, the association primarily focused on advertising to the major cities in New Hampshire. This left Hanover residents feeling “out of the loop,” according to Hanover Chamber of Commerce president Tracy Hutchins.

The Chamber of Commerce of Hanover started the event in 2013 after the change in the College’s term calendar, according to Hanover town manager Julia Griffin.

“Before the term calender change, December was the biggest month for restaurants,” Griffin said. “The Chamber of Commerce started Restaurant Week to get local residents to fill seats after the term schedule change led to the departure of students in December.”

Hutchins said Restaurant Week helps local restaurants continue to operate during the College’s winter break, when students and professors are away.

“The event helps to give local businesses a boost where they are lacking,” Hutchins said.

The Chamber of Commerce also aims to promote eating locally to Hanover residents, according to Hutchins.

“Any local shopping or dining is great for the local economy,” Griffin said. “Residents who work for our retailers are big proponents of eating locally. It’s important that our restaurants also support local producers.”

This year, there were seven participating restaurants: Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery, Molly’s, Pine, Salt Hill Pub and Skinny Pancake in Hanover, and Blue Sparrow Kitchen and Jasper Murdock’s Alehouse in Norwich. This was an increase in participation from last year’s six restaurants, according to Hutchins.

Lou’s general manager Craig Morley has had Lou’s Bakery participate in the event since its conception.

“Restaurant Week is helpful for us,” he said. “It lures in locals that are afraid of coming into town when it is busy because parking is pain.”

Lou’s offered menu items at a discounted price, whereas Salt Hill Pub and Molly’s created a fixed-price menu comprising new dishes and customer favorites.

“Originally when the Chamber of Commerce designed Restaurant Week, we were all asked to come up with new fixed-price menus,” said functions manager of Molly’s Jennifer Packard. “Some felt limited by that request, so the Chamber decided to give restaurants both options.”

Lou’s, Salt Hill Pub and Molly’s have participated in Restaurant Week since 2013. This year, Molly’s saw an increase in filled seats from last Restaurant Week. However, both Lou’s and Salt Hill Pub do not believe Restaurant Week increased their sales. While both restaurants do not have the metrics from the month of December, Morley and Salt Hill Pub general manager Jennifer Galvin both said they did not see an increase in diners.

“The business I saw was on par for course of the year,” Galvin said. “There was no change from Restaurant Week.”

Recently, the Chamber of Commerce altered their advertising strategy. Great Eastern Radio broadcast Restaurant Week advertisements on three of their stations and has been a partner of the event for many years. Last year, advertisements were extended to social media websites like Facebook, to reach other towns of the Upper Valley and beyond, Hutchins said. Residents of the towns in the Upper Valley often come to Hanover to experiment with new restaurants, according to Griffin.

“The people of the Upper Valley are fluid,” Griffin said. “We have a willingness to travel to eat out.”

Every year, the Chamber of Commerce aims to improve on an aspect of the week long event, according to Hutchins. In 2019, the goal for Restaurant Week is to expand the event to a regional Restaurant Week offered to just Hanover, said Griffin.

“The goal is to reach out to restaurants in Norwich and Lyme, and even in White River Junction and Lebanon,” said Hutchins. “We would like more to come on board. Every year we seek to improve a little bit by looking at the metrics. Then, we make notes on how to tweak things. It’s a work in progress.”