To help combat the difficulties restaurants are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Birmingham Restaurant Week is holding its annual Winter Edition to highlight and support local restaurants. The event, which will be held January 14–31, will showcase more than 40 restaurants offering special menus for takeout or socially distanced in-person dining. Prefixed two- or three-course menus range from $5–50 and include breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. The event is a spinoff of the original Birmingham Restaurant Week (BRW), held each summer.
2020 was a hard year for the hospitality industry. Restaurants had to pivot their business models and deal with dine-in restrictions or lockdowns that forced many to close. According to the National Restaurant Association, one in six restaurants, representing close to 100,000 units, have closed either permanently or long-term. In Alabama, the leisure and hospitality industry has accounted for 49% of all jobs lost since March. This puts the state’s $9 billion restaurant economy at a severe risk as more than 75% of Alabama’s 8,620 eating and drinking locations are in danger of closing permanently amidst the ongoing pandemic.
After the 2020 summer BRW — held August 14–31 — statistics showed a 54% average increase in sales for participants vs. during recent non-BRW weeks. Tortugas Pizza, a first-time BRW participant, saw a 125% increase in sales during BRW vs. a recent non-BRW week.
Only locally owned businesses are allowed to participate in BRW, as nearly 65% of the revenue from local independent restaurants recirculates in the local economy (compared to about 30% for chains). During summer BRW, pandemic restrictions allowed restaurants to incorporate new additions, such as family-style meal options, cocktail kits, and to-go alcohol. The standard 10-day event was increased to 18 days, therefore allowing more days for patrons to partake and more opportunity for incoming sales for participating businesses.
In addition to the economic benefits, BRW also has raised more than $75,000 for local nonprofits in its 11 years of existence. Organizers donated $2,500 to the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama (CFBCA) after BRW 2020 to help aid in its mission to end hunger tomorrow.
Before and after BRW, you can support local restaurants by ordering takeout, purchasing gift cards, and lobbying for the Restaurants Act, which if passed will generate $1.8 billion economic benefit for Alabama.
Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.