The annual Taste of Wauseon, which highlights the culinary talents of local restaurants, has been added to the long list of events canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But given the financial struggle many area restaurants have endured due to COVID-19 health restrictions, Wauseon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bill Drummer decided they needed both a boost and a spotlight.
The result is the Wauseon Chamber of Commerce Restaurant Week, Feb. 19-27, an opportunity to entice diners to try a repast at 16 participating eateries and compete for prizes as a reward.
The rules are simple. Contestants will receive a card that is stickered each time they dine in, buy carryout, or purchase a gift card from one or more of the participating restaurants. After receiving five stickers contestants can drop off their card at one of those restaurants to be collected or at the Wauseon Chamber of Commerce, 115 N. Fulton St. One entry per person is permitted.
On March 2, one winner will be drawn for a 50-inch Samsung SmartTV. Twenty other winners will each receive a $25 gift certificate to use at any of the participating restaurants. They include Ryan’s Restaurant, The Barn Restaurant, Blue Ribbon Restaurant, Los Mariachis, AKA Designs, Warrior Wings, Biggby Coffee, Sullivans Restaurant, Sullys Bistro, American Winery, Red Rambler/Ramblin’ Red’s, Fortune Kitchen, Kam Wah 28, Das Essen Haus, Azteca, and Marco’s Pizza.
“We just want to get the foot traffic out so we can support these guys,” Drummer said. “I think this will compel people to want to get out to be part of that…there’s a good chance you’re going to win something. We understand we’re still in the pandemic, so we want to encourage people to get carry-out and buy gift certificates if they don’t feel comfortable dining in.”
The contest may not offer the elegance of Taste of Wauseon, a dine-in event at St. Caspar Catholic Church in Wauseon which attracted over 300 guests for three consecutive years and offered food last year from 14 restaurants. However, Restaurant Week can allow residents to recognize that they don’t have to travel far for a good meal.
“It’s our once a year (event) that we promote the restaurants, and so we were trying to think of what we could do to help these restaurants because we’re not having the Taste of Wauseon,” Drummer said.
Restaurant Week will offer area residents the opportunity to dine at places they may not usually patronize and a chance for restauranteurs to connect with them, he said.
AKA Design owner Marc Matheny has lost 60% of his restaurant business to the pandemic. Located at 209 N. Fulton St. in Wauseon, AKA Design has kept its dining room closed and lost its catering business due to COVID-19.
Matheny said he hopes the contest will drive more people to his location for carryout food. “It’s important for people to come out and support us. We have to survive. It’s not a question,” he said.
Conversely, Das Essen Haus in Pettisville has fared well through the pandemic. “For the most part we’ve had really great community support with carryout and dine-in,” owner Becky Rhodes said.
She said the restaurant can provide the same quality food to diners they can get in larger communities, and has done well through the pandemic. “I think it’s important to shop and eat local during any time, as well as the pandemic,” she said.
Drummer said of the Wauseon Chamber’s 240 members, those in trade, factory production, and retail are doing well. But restaurants and bars have taken a hit during the pandemic from which a few may not recover.
“We can’t stress enough how they need our help,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.