EAT IT AND LIKE IT: Restaurant Week returns to Ardsley Station

For years it has been the most popular ticket in food all over Savannah, an opportunity for restaurants to stray from their regular menus a little at a fixed price plus a chance for people who love to go out to eat to do so without being fearful of breaking the bank.

Of course, we are talking about Restaurant Week.

Up until a few years ago, Savannah’s Restaurant Week was always held at the end of January. 

It was created to fill a huge gap in food and beverage revenues during the Winter. It worked very well as long as restaurants stuck to a three courses for $30 format. That format went unchanged for maybe a decade, even though the price of food was creeping north year to year to year. As time wore on, participating restaurants were seeing diminishing returns. In some cases, even a loss of revenue in attempting to put together a $30 menu.

A few years back, Eat It and Like It got involved in Restaurant Week and was the first to offer restaurants an opportunity to participate at a three for $40 or $45 menu. 

It was well received. But that was a few years ago, as in pre-pandemic.

Now, I am one of the first people out there that is just about up to here with blaming anything ‘on the pandemic.’ 

But the reality is, the landscape has changed dramatically in a lot of different corners of the world since Spring of 2020. How many headlines do you need to see about food costs and labor shortages to realize that most restaurants continue to adjust to this ‘new normal’? 

The problem continues here and everywhere.

Former employees will tell you they got sick of working for less than a living wage. At the same time, restaurant owners will tell you they simply cannot afford to pay everyone on their staff $22/$25 an hour or more without passing those costs along to you.

Are you ready to pay $30 for a burger? No, of course not. No one is. That’s the juggling act owners face on the regular. 

Believe me, I’ve had probably two dozen conversations with so many of them about the same issue.

Early this Summer, we floated the idea of bringing back a Summer Restaurant Week to well over a dozen local restaurants. 

The responses ranged from “There’s just no way we could handle that right now,” to “we’ve got way more on our plate this Summer than we can handle.” And also “The staff would hate me if I did that to them.”

At the same time, some restaurants tell me they are regularly setting records at their restaurants. Savannah is absolutely red-hot right now. Dining rooms are full in many cases across the board. 

So where’s the motivation to trim already small margins? It is hard to find.

The other major issue was food costs. A couple of years ago we got push back from several restaurants for a $40 or $45 dollar menu because it was still too low. 

Charleston’s Restaurant Week next month starts at $45 for three courses. The higher end restaurants will go to $65, we’ve seen the trend already. 

In Savannah? That won’t fly. Sure, you’d have some people participate at $65, but enough to make it worth the trouble for that participating restaurant? Not likely.

Only one restaurant immediately jumped on board and never wavered in their commitment to putting a special menu together. That was Ardsley Station.

click to enlarge EAT IT AND LIKE IT: Restaurant Week returns to Ardsley Station
Ardsley Station

Ardsley Station General Manager Tyler Kopkas never flinched when I shot him a text message asking him if he was interested. When I told him weeks later he was alone on the list, he didn’t even pause. Ardsley Station is all in. Their special menu (3 courses for $40-with a few restrictions) is underway and will run through September 11.

We’ve been fielding emails year round asking if Restaurant Week would return, and technically it has. The good news is, we can enjoy one of Savannah’s most popular restaurants at a fixed price for the next two weeks. The good news also is, we aren’t going anywhere. We are going to keep trying to put it together every year, tweaking the model as we go in hopes of finding a win/win sweet spot for everyone involved.

To be continued.

About The Author

Jesse Blanco

One of the most recognizable personalities in the Savannah/Hilton Head Island television market, Jesse Blanco is sometimes called "Savannah's Anthony Bourdain." His 'Eat It and Like It' show has become a major regional brand in the foodie world.
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