If ever there was a time we needed the nourishment of good meals — whether prepared in our own kitchens or served to us at our favorite food joints — it’s now. People are hurting, from families trying to put food on the table to those who cook for a living yet had their businesses shuttered because of the pandemic.
For all of those reasons, Richmond Restaurant Week will go on.
Now in its 19th year, Richmond Restaurant Week will take place starting Monday, Oct. 12 and run through Sunday, Oct. 25. The annual event showcases Richmond’s dining scene while also contributing to Feed More through donations made at each participating restaurant.
This year, however, is unlike any other.
Normally there are two annual restaurant weeks, one in April and the other in October. Due to COVID-19, the April event was canceled. Next month’s event was nearly canceled, too, said Richmond Restaurant Week Founder Aline Reitzer. Reitzer was also co-owner of Acacia restaurant, which closed in February after 21 years in business.
“The normal way is not feasible,” she said, referring to the typical Richmond Restaurant Week event, in which restaurants create special three-course meals and then a portion of those meal prices are donated to Feed More. “We considered not hosting it at all.”
But restaurants need patrons now more than ever, and a lot of hungry people rely on Feed More’s help, she said.
“We wanted to keep the momentum going and keep celebrating Richmond’s food scene while supporting Feed More,” she said, noting that for restaurants, “it’s a great opportunity [and] everything is taken care of for them.”
This year, because restaurants are already struggling, there are no special menus for Restaurant Week. Patrons who dine at the participating restaurants can make a $5 donation and that money goes directly to Feed More.
“There’s little to no effort on their part,” Reitzer said about participating restaurants. “They’re able to give back to Feed More by doing what they do each day.”
In the past 18 years, Restaurant Week has raised nearly $950,000 for Feed More. A $5 donation can help provide for 20 meals.
In a written statement, Feed More President and CEO Doug Pick said he’s “beyond grateful” to Reitzer and the dozens of restaurants that continue to make Restaurant Week a success.
“It’s no surprise that our Richmond restaurant community is making this happen — it’s their creativity and tenacity that’s made RVA a top food destination,” Pick said. “Their steadfast support over the past 19 years has helped us provide more than 3 million meals to our neighbors in need.”
He continued: “Our hope is that in this challenging year, Richmond will rally around these businesses and support them, just as they’ve supported us.”
In addition to patron donations, several beverage companies, including Cirrus Vodka, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and Roanoke Valley Wine Company, will donate $5 for each case purchased by the participating restaurants.
Perch Owner Mike Ledesma said he, like other restaurant owners, is simply trying to keep his head above water. He said he’s kept staff members who’ve been with him for some time, but he’s not hiring anyone else because the demand isn’t there.
Still, something like Richmond Restaurant Week is a cause his employees can rally around.
“If we can take that energy from the community and transfer it to good causes — it does build a team,” he said. He can’t discount his food or give it away, but putting a Feed More donation “button” on his website, for example, is an easy way to let both his team and his patrons do good for others. His staff can then see the contributions they’re making simply by preparing the high-quality food they’ve always made.
“The food we create is delicious,” Ledesma said, so “we can use our resources to exchange the dollars ... and do good in the community.”
For more information about Richmond Restaurant Week, visit www.rrweek.com.