Wood-fired pizza at Blu Sardinia. Photo by Rachel Coward.

Wood-fired pizza at Blu Sardinia. Photo by Rachel Coward.

Diners rejoice: Seattle Restaurant Week is back. The promotion, which ran April 12-16 and will continue April 19-23, features $15 two-course lunches and $30 three-course dinners from more than 165 area restaurants. Despite its name, 425-area restaurants have been piling on to the promotion over the years, and Seattle Restaurant Week now features 33 Eastside restaurants in Bellevue, Kirkland, Woodinville, Bothell, Redmond, Snoqualmie, and Renton.

Barking Frog at Willows Lodge is one of the many Eastside restaurants that is participating in this year’s Seattle Restaurant Week. “We participate in Seattle Restaurant Week, in part, because it brings in new customers and creates awareness for Barking Frog both in Seattle and on the Eastside. It also challenges the team, and helps keep us full in slower times of the year,” says Tony Berkau, Director of Restaurant Outlets at Willows Lodge.

David Yusen, director of marketing and public relations at Heavy Restaurant Group (Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, Lot No. 3, Barrio), echoes the positive sentiment. “We do it for two main reasons. It’s turned into the area’s biggest and most popular dine-out promotion. It’s fun, and we want to take part in celebrating all of the great restaurants in the area. The second is that it’s a way to showcase our restaurants to people who have never been to our restaurants before. A lot of people wait for restaurant week to do their dining out. People map out their experiences during these two weeks. The price point, 3-courses for $30, is very attractive for people,” he says.

Both Yusen and Berkau say that since the format of dining on Seattle Restaurant Week menus is generally quite different from the day-to-day service in their restaurants, it challenges their chefs to be creative with the menus while maintaining the same flavor profiles inherent to their normal menus. “I don’t want our chefs to reinvent the wheel and come up with new items that won’t be around after the week is over. Our menus are a combination of existing flavors with hints of new things as well,” says Yusen.

Marc Chatalas, who owns Cactus restaurants and Tavern Hall in Bellevue with his brother Bret, says that his restaurants participated with Seattle Restaurant Week in the past, but they found the promotion didn’t suit their business. “Primarily, the structure of the program doesn’t fit how people dine in our particular restaurants—people generally aren’t coursing their meals here at Cactus. Also, we work extremely hard to make sure we show our guests value with each visit and we felt that it was harder to do so under the constraints of the program.  Sure, we’d love to get $30 per guest, but that doesn’t mean guests want to spend $30 for just food when they visit a Cactus location.  Another issue for us is that it’s not an inexpensive proposition when you have five locations and we never did see the kind of return on investment we like to see in our promotional dollars. When we would ask guests why came in during the promotion, very few of them said they were here for SRW. So, while it changed our guests’ order for the night, it wasn’t driving our guest count,” says Chatalas.

Are you a proponent of Seattle Restaurant Week? Or do you prefer to avoid these restaurants altogether during these higher volume weeks? Which Eastside restaurants would you love to see participate? Click here to see the full list. Tell us your comments below.