After two years of a pandemic-induced roller coaster ride, Edmonton restaurants are open again and hoping to entice foodies from across the city.
It’s perfect timing for the 2022 edition of Downtown Dining Week.
“Our downtown hospitality businesses have been the hardest hit by the pandemic, more than any other industry or area of the city,” said Puneeta McBryan, executive director of the Edmonton Downtown Business Association.
“The return of 60,000-plus office workers to downtown over the next few weeks is the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Downtown Dining Week, which runs March 30 to April 10, has always been an important initiative for downtown businesses. But it’s especially important this year, said Tracy Hyatt, marketing specialist with the Edmonton Downtown Business Association.
“It’s a big program in getting people through the doors. This time of the year — spring time — typically a slower time. But it’s been slow for the past two years.”
Hyatt said thousands of downtown office workers are starting to return to in-person work, which is making a big difference.
“The timing of this year’s downtown dining week works really well… In the next two weeks, the major employers are starting to phase back their workers.”
This year’s program will celebrate resiliency and innovation.
“We’ve got 60 restaurants participating this year and that’s a record number of restaurants,” Hyatt said.
“It has been a struggle over the past two years … They’ve certainly been very resourceful and innovative, finding ways to cut costs and still bring customers through the doors and make money, but there’s no real payback like in-person dining.
“The profit margins in the restaurant industry are really slim. So this is a huge win for them to have a program like this,” she added. “We’re hoping to see a lot of traffic.”
Downtown Dining Week offers brunch, lunch and dinner options at various price points: $20, $35, $50 and $65 for multi-course meals at a diverse selection of local restaurants.
“These businesses are really important to the vibrancy of downtown core, all the investments that have done in the downtown core to really make this place really special, and the restaurant community is a huge part of that,” Hyatt said.
Guru Kitchen and Bar opened its Ice District location just before the pandemic.
“The two years have been very, very tough for us,” said general manager Gurjeet Khaira. “We were open, we were closed, we were open, we were closed.
“We survived the storm,” he said. “Now, things are looking great. We’re really looking forward to people coming back to restaurants.”
Khaira said joining Downtown Dining Week was a no-brainer and he’s grateful for the chance to take part.
“We want downtown to get back to what it was before,” he said. “We want to offer patrons the best we can.
“It gives me hope. It gives us positive vibes,” Khaira said. “It’s going to be a great boost for us and a great help.”