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Restaurant Week provides big boost for Sonoma County eateries

  • Tracy Byrnes, center, and Megan Basinger are all smiles as they are greeted by server Emma Byrne at Bistro 29 during Restaurant Week in Santa Rosa on March 20, 2013. (PD FILE, 2013)

This year's Sonoma County Restaurant Week featured more eateries, more patrons and 82 percent more meals served.

Participating restaurants added an estimated $2.2 million to the county economy, up 42 percent from last year, according to a report released Tuesday by the county Economic Development Board, the event's main sponsor.

“We really had a very strong increase in business,” said Ben Stone, the board's executive director.

The annual event, held this year in March, offers diners a chance to sample special three-course meals from restaurants at one of three price levels: $19, $29 or $39. For their part, restaurants get to attract patrons at a time when business is typically slower than usual.

“It definitely puts a nice boost into the winter economy,” said Tess Ostopowicz, who with her husband Gene owns GTO's Seafood House in Sebastopol. The couple has participated since Restaurant Week began in 2010, she said, “because it's one of the better weeks of the year.”

Restaurant week diners may order off the regular menu, and for the first time this year the vast majority of them did so.

Participating restaurants served 60,000 meals during the week, a sizable increase from the roughly 33,000 served a year earlier. But only about 15,000 of this year's meals were ordered off the prix fixe menus. In the event's first three years, the three-course dinners routinely accounted for more than half of all meals served.

Stone speculated that better economic times may have prompted more diners to order off the regular menu.

This year 124 restaurants took part in the week, a 27 percent increase from a year earlier.

According to completed comment cards, more than half of the diners said the Restaurant Week visit was their first to the eatery. Nearly one in five diners came from outside the county.

Nearly three out of four restaurants reported an increase in traffic and 99 percent of the eateries indicated they want to participate again in 2014.

“It's a great opportunity,” said Tina Jackson, a co-owner of El Coqui Puerto Rican Cuisine in Santa Rosa. “The county really does a great job of organizing it.”

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