Event seeks to attract fall business to the Vail Valley | VailDaily.com

Event seeks to attract fall business to the Vail Valley

Scott N. Millersmiller@vaildaily.comVail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – For years, Vail restaurants have tried to attract diners with special deals in the fall. Fewer diners paying less for meals isn’t a good thing for the bottom line, but that’s the model. Vail Restaurant Month is trying to change that standard.The four-week event is entering its second year this fall, with a thousands-deep email database and almost 800 Facebook friends. The month of celebrating Vail’s culinary culture also has added local and national sponsors for its second go-round. It’s exactly what event founder Ilene Rapkin hoped for.Rapkin, who owns New York-based I Openers, a marketing and promotions company, is a longtime fan of Vail. She started Vail Restaurant Month as a way to draw people to Vail during an underappreciated season and seems to be having some success. Last year’s events drew plenty of fans, from private tastings to kids’ cooking classes.But besides drawing people, Rapkin said she’s dedicated to a more bottom-line-based mission – no discounts.Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa general manager Frank Johnson said that’s a good thing for business at Terra Bistro, the lodge’s restaurant.”It’s an opportunity to try to put a program together in the fall that didn’t involve half-price food,” Johnson said. “That had been our default for years – we were taking people who’d pay anyway and giving them these discounts.”Beyond the bottom line, though, Vail Restaurant Month events are a chance to get businesses besides restaurants involved in fun events during a traditionally slow time.”Most people thought it was a home run last year,” Rapkin said, citing consistently high scores from an independent survey of both businesses and guests.This year, Rapkin said the events will be more focused – “Last year we might have had a few too many repetitions,” she said. This year will bring more one-time events, featuring more sponsors.”Sponsorship money came a little easier this year,” Rapkin said. “But if you have national sponsors that believe in Vail in the fall, we can grow this event.”And, while the themes of the weeks are the same as last year, there will be variations on those themes.Masters Gallery owner Rayla Kundolf last year hosted a brunch at the gallery. This year, she’s hosting a reception for Belvedere Red, the premium vodka brand’s contribution to U2 singer Bono’s “Red” program, which donates money to charity.”It’s more than about food – it’s about a sense of community,” Kundolf said.Other retail stores have signed on for other events this year, including a fashion show at Luca Bruno in Vail Village.Kundolf is an enthusiastic advocate of events to build business and said Vail Restaurant Month is a chance to take advantage of a couple of growing trends: using food as a draw to the resort and pushing the traditional boundaries of the tourist seasons.”This helps take business into mid-October,” she said. “It’s getting us closer and closer to that year-round model.”Johnson, who’s been in the valley long enough to have seen any number of events come and go, isn’t ready to pronounce Vail Restaurant Month a tradition just yet.”But it certainly can be successful,” Johnson said. “And I think it will be more successful as time goes on.”

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