To get the word out about the upcoming Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week, Visit Sarasota County hosted an event May 8 featuring tasting stations, raffles and a trivia contest at the Hyatt Regency.
"Who wants another boring lunch?" asked Virginia J. Haley, president of Visit Sarasota. "We decided to have a party instead."
While the party at the Hyatt Regency was designed to drum up publicity for Restaurant Week, which is actually two weeks (June 1-14), the local shindig was part of nationwide festivities by local tourist bureaus.
The catchphrase for this year's tourism push is "Travel Forward." Implicit in the slogan is the desire to move past the pandemic and lockdowns that put the U.S. travel and hospitality industries into a deep freeze that still lingers today in some places.
Sarasota isn't one of them. Indeed, one of the questions in the first of three trivia contests was "Which month did the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport record the highest number of passengers in history?" Of the four choices, March 2023 was the correct answer. In March, SRQ set a passengers record with 514,889, the highest number in the airport's history, which dates back to 1939.
For Savor Sarasota, local eateries will offer lunch menus at $25 per person and dinner specials for $40. Many restaurants will also feature upgrade dishes, wine pairings and wine flights as part of the promotion.
Right now, the list of participating restaurants includes 21 dining spots in Sarasota as well as bistros in Siesta Key, Longboat Key, Lakewood Ranch and Venice. For a full list, visit VisitSarasota.com/savor-sarasota.
Savor Sarasota was originally created as Restaurant Week by Visit Sarasota County in 2006 to goose traffic during the off season.
To participate, area eateries must be a member of Visit Sarasota County and are asked to donate two $50 gift certificates to be used throughout the year for visiting travel writers, meeting planners, tour operators and others with the potential to raise the area's national and international profile.
Each year, Visit Sarasota County honors one of its members with the Voice of Sarasota Award. On May 8, the 2023 award was presented to Michael Klauber, co-proprietor of Michael's on East.
But the honor was not bestowed for Klauber's work as a restaurateur; it was given to recognize him for the countless hours he spent helping to make The Bay Park a reality. Bay Park officially opened in October 2022.
According to Haley, she and Klauber participated in more than 300 meetings since Klauber challenged the board 18 years ago to help transform 53 acres of city-owned land into a welcoming waterfront park with public access to the bayfront.