‘Restaurant month’ aims to boost Vail’s off-season
August 29, 2010
VAIL, Colorado – For about as long as Vail has been a resort, people have tried to get more guests to town when it isn’t winter. Ilene Rapkin thinks she has an answer to the off-season doldrums.Rapkin, a frequent Vail visitor and owner of I Openers, a marketing and consulting company, has spent the last three years thinking about and working on “Vail Restaurant Month,” which debuts Sept. 20.Rapkin, a former publisher of magazines including Conde Nast Traveler and Bon Appetit, has helped with marketing for the Vail Film Festival and Taste of Vail. A few years ago she came to Vail in the fall for the first time. She was amazed by the weather, but dismayed by how empty the town was.Shortly after, she started toying with the idea of some sort of event that would bring people to town in the weeks between the time the aspen leaves fade and snow starts to fly. She talked with friends and businesses she’d worked with for the film festival and taste of Vail.Vail Restaurant Month was born from those conversations.The idea, Rapkin said, is to get beyond mere discounts and try to offer events to go along with dining and lodging packages. For instance, the company that owns Gore Creek Fly Fisherman, Vail Sports and the Patagonia store has teamed up with a couple of restaurants’ packages.Gore Creek Fly Fisherman has teamed up with Blu’s in Vail Village, while the Patagonia store will offer a special with Blue Moose Pizza.The Patagonia store package will be part of “Health, Wellness & Outdoors Week.” The store will hold a safe-hiking seminar with the Vail Mountain Rescue Group. People who attend will get in-store specials and a special lunch deal at Blue Moose.”I think we’ll see a positive response,” Specialty Sports sales and marketing director Lee Steele said. “I think we’ll see more people at the (free flyfishing casting) clinics, and maybe we’ll get a few more clients for guided trips.”Sarah Franke, the communications director for the company that owns Blue Moose Pizza and the Vail Chophouse, said Vail Restaurant Month’s various events and themes will give those restaurants a chance to do some special food and beverage pairings during various events.For instance, the Chophouse will feature special lunch for people who go on led trail runs and bike rides, and lunch will include a Michelob Ultra beer. Other meal specials will have Stella Artois beer and various wines.”We stay open as it is in the fall,” Franke said. “But to have an event is great for our staffing.”The events with Vail Restaurant Month will cover a range of incomes and interests, and will include something for locals, too.At the top end of the spectrum, Rock Resorts has put together a dinner featuring fine food and Krug Champagne in the Arrabelle. It’s a high-end event, limited to just 20 couples.”But we think next year people will be calling to find out when it is,” Rock Resorts area director of sales and marketing Pete Hayda said. For people who already live here, Vail Restaurant Month has put together a program for local fifth-graders to go along with its “Little Foodies in the Kitchen” event. Local kids will get a chance to see the local hotel and restaurant businesses up close, and the 45 winners of a recipe contest will be able to bring their families to an event featuring many of those recipes.Rob LeVine, general manager of the Antlers Lodge in Lionshead, has been involved in various efforts to boost off-season business over the years. The Antlers is participating in Vail Restaurant Month, but his expectations are modest. “It’s a good idea, but it’s not a be-all, end-all solution,” LeVine said. “It’s going to require a multi-year effort.” But, he added, the events could boost Vail’s bottom line by “several percent” this fall.LeVine said what’s different about Vail Restaurant Month is the themes of the various weeks.”In the past we’ve tried to sell what we’ve always done in the fall,” LeVine said. “This gives us something to market. It’s a reasonable idea, but it’s not revolutionary.”And, while there are going to be special prices on the various packages, those involved with Vail Restaurant Month are careful to say it isn’t just another discount package.”It’s not about discounts, it’s about the experience,” Rapkin said. “We want people to come in, get a signature experience, and experience all Vail has to offer.”Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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