By Cathy Yen
Last Friday over four hundred people attended the sold-out Chamber Bite Nite at the Nineteenth Century Club in Oak Park. The event showcased forty local restaurants, each sampling their specialties. A terrific jazz trio set the mood.
Everyone had a great time. Ticket prices covered costs. The participating businesses were pleased. Was the event a success?
Too early to tell.
Bite Nite will have been a success if party-goers patronize the restaurants. If people say, "wow, I remember them from Bite Nite. Let's go there for dinner." If the event's positive buzz morphs into even greater buzz about our local dining scene, then it will have been a success.
The Chamber is very proud of Bite Nite. We are thrilled it went smoothly. We are delighted that the community enjoys it. We appreciate the Wednesday Journal for sponsoring and the many Chamber volunteers. But we do it for the small businesses. We do it to give the restaurants an opportunity to connect, to market themselves and to create excitement.
An event like this depends on the vendors as much as the ticket-holders. The restaurant owners who spent Friday mingling and talking up their businesses are not paid to be there. They do not get a cut of ticket revenue, which just covers the event's cost. Restaurants pay for the food, the staff to prepare it and the plates they serve it on. It's not a money-maker as a food court at a festival might be. Instead, it is marketing. A chance to connect. An opportunity to build the brand and meet new customers.
Just like silent auctions at nonprofit galas – small businesses don't donate gift certificates (entirely) for the good of the cause. Donations build social capital, which ideally translates into the community feeling better about the brand. That, in turn, should drive more business.
Last Friday was a blast. Now let's make Bite Nite a success. Go out to eat at one of the forty Bite Nite restaurants. Tell your friends. Keep the buzz going. Connect with your local businesses. (For a full list of participants, visit www.foodiefest.net).
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