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Aberdeen Restaurant Week: should nationwide chains be excluded?

Aberdeen Restaurant Week brings in a great deal of customers (and cash) for businesses. But should it be just for local companies?

Elena Ionascu runs Da Vinci's Italian Restaurant. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson
Elena Ionascu runs Da Vinci's Italian Restaurant. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

The latest Aberdeen Restaurant Week finished on Sunday (August 20) after welcoming its biggest line-up to date.

There were 60 restaurants involved in the fortnight-long event with some taking part for the first time, including Jewel in the Crown, Gidi Grill, The Atrium, All Bar One and Smoke and Soul, to name a few.

Many said they noticed an enjoyable boost in customers over the two weeks.

But as the event increases in popularity and larger chains start joining the long list of participating restaurants, are we moving too far away from the ‘support local’ mindset?

Should Aberdeen Restaurant Week even be including massive nationwide companies and their restaurants at all?

We spoke to the staff at a range of local places in the city who took part to see what they think.

Smoke and Soul hail their first-ever Aberdeen Restaurant Week a success

The Pig’s Wings was offering £15 and £25 menus. Dishes included crispy jalapenos, a ‘filthy burger’ and buttermilk chicken strips. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson

Lindsay Jackson, co-owner of Smoke and Soul, saw it as a “great opportunity to be a part of a local food venue-focused event” in the city.

The Aberdeen Restaurant Week food and drink deals started from £10 per person and ranged from two and three-course meals to tasting menus and sharing platters.

Corey Milne, left, and Lindsay Jackson. Image: Supplied by Lindsay Jackson

Smoke and Soul, which is based in Six Degrees North (soon-to-be The Firepit) on Littlejohn Street, was offering three of its tapas dishes for £15.

Hundreds of customers welcomed through the doors thanks to Aberdeen Restaurant Week

Although the barbecue business has proved popular since starting its Six Degrees North kitchen residency in 2019, Lindsay recorded between 250 and 280 customers stopping by for the Aberdeen Restaurant Week menu.

“We thought it was great and are actually extending the offer we ran on Wednesdays and Thursdays in our venue for the next two weeks,” adds Lindsay.

“It gives customers the opportunity to try new places at a cheaper cost.

“For us, it gave customers the chance to try multiple smaller dishes rather than one large main to try out more of our extensive menu.”

Elena Ionascu, who owns Da Vinci’s Italian Restaurant on Alford Lane, revealed that 80% of her venue’s customers over the past two weeks opted for their restaurant week menu.

Da Vinci’s welcomed hundreds of foodies during Aberdeen Restaurant Week. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

She went on to say that Da Vinci’s, which is the only certified authentic Italian restaurant in the city, was “fully booked for two weeks.”

The foodie fortnight provides ‘huge opportunity for small businesses’, but does anything need to change?

Elena says the positive points of Aberdeen Restaurant Week included the event being “well organised” and offering “huge opportunity to attract people” to Granite City businesses, but there is one improvement she would would like to make to future installments.

“I think that chain restaurants should be excluded from this initiative,” she said.

Chaophraya has branches in Aberdeen, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Newcastle. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson

“The focus of Aberdeen Restaurant Week should be more on local businesses.”

With that said, the restaurant owner assures that Da Vinci’s will be back for the next installment.

“We will definitely participate in the future again.”

‘It’s restaurant week, not local week’, says manager of The Atrium

Asking for his take on the topic – of whether or not chains should be included in future installments – The Atrium manager Colin Bell said: “We’re an independent company and we pride ourselves in local produce and good service – a bit more personal than what I think chain restaurants can do.

“However, it’s restaurant week, not local week.

“It should be open to everyone.

“It was a valuable experience for us. We learned a lot, both on what we do well and what we don’t do so well, and taken that on board to be better.”

Co-owner of the Chapel Street-based The Atrium, Ryan Clark, also spoke highly of the foodie fortnight.

Having only opened in February, we wanted to use the event as a platform to promote the restaurant and our vision of using fresh locally sourced ingredients,” Ryan added.

“We had over 2,600 people order in the last two weeks. We were stunned!

From left, Darren, Brian and Ryan Clark. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

“Aberdeen Inspired have done a fantastic job.

“I love that the people in Aberdeen make it so special by taking part and helping to support local businesses.

“It’s been a tough few years for hospitality, so it was very refreshing to see an unprecedented level of support.

“It’s also given us some new ideas for the restaurant going forward – watch this space…”

Mackie’s not only scream for ice cream, but for chains and independents to take part as a collective

Yvette Harrison, manager of Mackie’s 19.2, shares the same view as Colin – that Aberdeen Restaurant Week is an initiative for all.

The Marischal Square dessert parlour sold roughly 60 deals over the 14 days.

She said: “From our point of view, because there’s not that many [chain] dessert parlours that do it, there’s not a lot of competition.

Yvette Harrison doesn’t see why chains can’t take part in ARW. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson

“I can see why independent restaurants might not like it, but the more [restaurants] you’ve got, the more variety people have.

“People get to decide if they want to go to the chains or the independents. I think it’s quite nice.

“The more you get involved, the better it is.”

Aberdeen Restaurant Week is organised by Aberdeen Inspired, the city centre BID.

What do you think? Take part in our poll here: