The idea for a new collaborative promotion called Savor the Couve came out of the Restaurant Roundtable, a large group of restaurant owners who meet virtually every week to discuss solutions for the ever-changing challenges posed by COVID-19.
“It’s not us against each other,” said Jason Fish, owner of Main Event and a roundtable member. “It’s us against the virus and the shutdowns.”
Each week through Jan. 28, Savor the Couve will feature a new menu with a rotating slate of restaurants. To participate, diners sign up for a five-course meal for two for $100, with $25 of that going directly to a local charity.
Varying restaurants provide each of the five courses, which include an alcoholic beverage, an appetizer, a soup or salad, two entrees with sides, and dessert. The Dec. 17 menu benefited the Clark County Food Bank and offered a Yakima Valley cabernet sauvignon from Niche Wine Bar, a harvest salad with brown sugar vinaigrette from Farrar’s Bistro, chicken piccata with mashed potatoes from Farrar’s Bistro, braised beef short ribs with saffron risotto and honey glazed carrots from Elements, and a blackberry walnut crisp frozen custard concrete from Rally Pizza.
The pandemic has been a disaster for restaurants. When Fish made the point that restaurant owners are all in the same predicament, it sparked Cliff Myers of Visit Vancouver USA and John McDonagh of the Greater Vancouver Chamber to imagine ways that these businesses could come together for their overall benefit.
“Savor the Couve isn’t something we’d dig into this much, as we would usually try to get people to come here,” Myers said.
Given the increase in COVID-19 cases in Clark County, Myers said it would be irresponsible to try to attract visitors right now. After the idea of this new event started to become a reality, he redirected some of his group sales managers to focus on organizing and promoting Savor the Couve.
It’s also unusual for Visit Vancouver USA to throw together a new promotional event so quickly, Myers said. He met with Fish and Beaches’ owner Mark Matthias to explore the idea.
Matthias and Fish began collaborating on meals in March. Their first matchup was a rib competition. They posted goofy videos on their social media. Customers loved it. This successful event led them to believe that getting other restaurants involved would be good for everybody.
Matthias and Fish said they could put together Savor the Couve in two weeks. These types of new promotions, particularly with so many different partners, would typically take at least 90 days.
“We’re building the plane while we’re flying it,” said Myers.
Restaurants aren’t making a huge profit from the Savor the Couve meals, but Fish doesn’t see that as the purpose for this project.
“If you come into this and your thing is I want to make a bunch of money, you probably won’t be asked back,” he said.
As he sees it, Savor the Couve offers a chance to attract new customers with all the participating restaurants and nonprofits posting information about the event on their social media sites.
Making and assembling all these meals also allows restaurant owners to bring back in some of their furloughed staff. Fish views his 100 employees as family. He’s happy to bring some of them back to help out with this event because it makes them feel productive again.
“It’s good for your mental health to be able to work,” Fish said.
Fish believes business owners and their employees also get an emotional lift by raising money for local charities that can’t do their usual fundraising work. He would like to see Savor the Couve continue past the end of January and he wants to add more meals.
“If we add only one a month for a year, that’s 12 charities getting $2,500. I’d like to see more money going to nonprofits through this,” said Fish.
Savor the Couve runs until Jan. 28. Meals can be ordered through the event website at www.vancouverusa.com/savor-the-couve until all 100 dinners are sold for the week. If customer demand continues, the event may be extended.