The COVID-19 pandemic affected all industries across the state, but one continues to take punches — restaurants. According to the Independent Restaurant Coalition, food service accounts for 8.5% of all employment in Alabama, with many of these eateries — about 76% — independently owned. Since March, the leisure and hospitality industry, where restaurants are classified, has accounted for 49% of all jobs lost in Alabama. Birmingham hopes to shine a light on these establishments and help keep those employees working.
Birmingham Restaurant Week is hosting its Winter Edition presented by Spire, starting Thursday, January 14 and running through Sunday, January 31. For 18 days, more than 50 restaurants and bars in the greater Birmingham area are creating special menus to attract patrons. With the options of to-go orders, curbside pickup and dine-in, these locally owned establishments offer everything from fine dining to down-home cooking. Special two and three-course breakfast, lunch and dinner menus will range from $5 to $50 per person — making it easy and affordable to try something new or to visit your favorite eatery.
“Spire is once again excited to partner with Birmingham Restaurant Week in supporting our local restaurants,” said Joe Hampton, president of Spire Alabama, Gulf Coast and Mississippi. “As we enter into the winter months, these local restaurants need our support more than ever. With plenty of curbside and to-go options available, this winter’s event will be a great example of how we can continue to move forward and get through this — together.”
According to the National Restaurant Association, one in six restaurants are closed either permanently or long-term, and one in three restaurants are projected to close by year end. Twenty-one percent of Alabama operators say it is unlikely their restaurant will still be in business six months from now, if there aren’t any additional relief packages from the federal government.
The BRW 2021 Winter Edition aims to help. The 2020 BRW back in August showed a 54% average increase in sales for participants versus non-BRW weeks. A first-time participant in August, Matt Viscaino, owner of Tortugas Pizza, says his local pizzeria saw a 125% increase in sales during BRW versus a recent non-BRW week. Further, when comparing his sales as a participant in BRW 2020 versus the same time period in 2019 when he didn’t participate, his establishment saw a 141% increase in sales.
“This has been an incredible experience and I am so thrilled we joined up this year,” said Viscaino. “I made more cheesecake in the two weeks of BRW 2020 than I did all summer.”
In addition to Spire, other companies supporting the BRW Winter Edition are Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Birmingham Bud, Red Diamond, Fox 6 WBRC, Coca-Cola, Birmingham Mountain Radio, Bham Now, The Birmingham Times, The Pizitz Food Hall, City Vision and the Birmingham City Council.
For more information on the event, visit bhamrestaurantweek.com.