After a wild, emotional and unprecedented past year-and-a-half, we're all craving something: public gatherings, festivals, seeing friends and family, travel and, perhaps most of all, dining out.
While we could have completely cancelled Inlander Restaurant Week this year, one thing was ultimately clear: Our local restaurants still desperately need our help. Yes, life in the Washington state opened back up on June 30, but independent restaurants are still trying to catch up and make up for huge losses after being drastically restricted or completely closed for the better part of the last 17 months.
Adding yet another challenge to restaurants' recovery is the nation-wide worker shortage as thousands of former food service employees in all positions — cooks, servers, bartenders, dishwashers, hosts and more — left the industry to pursue new careers and opportunities. These staffing issues actually caused many would-be Inlander Restaurant Week 2021 participants to bow out as these establishments simply aren't prepared for a huge rush of diners over the 10-day event. And in Coeur d'Alene where summer is peak tourism season, many eateries opted out because they're already slammed.
You’ll see this phrase, or its English translation — fixed price — repeatedly during Inlander Restaurant Week. Essentially, this means that there’s a flat fee for your meal — either $22 or $33 depending on the restaurant — and you get to pick from three different options for each of three courses. But don’t worry; if you want a tried-and-true favorite from the standard menu, restaurants will have their regular menus available.
What that means for the 50-plus local eateries that are offering incredible three-course menus during Restaurant Week is that at times, diners might encounter longer waits for tables (make reservations in advance!) or even for orders to come out from the kitchen.
So please, be patient and understanding. Food service workers have unjustly taken the brunt of so much public outrage over everything from supply chain shortages to state-mandated health rules totally out of their control.
These myriad hurdles faced by hospitality workers during the pandemic is why this year's Inlander Restaurant Week nonprofit beneficiary is Big Table. The locally based organization that aids hospitality workers in crisis served as a vital lifeline this past year when demand for direct financial support skyrocketed. Diners can donate directly to Big Table while out for Restaurant Week by scanning a QR code printed on this year's menus.
While 2021's Inlander Restaurant Week is obviously going to look and feel different on many fronts, the date change also has plenty of benefits. For one, it's summer and that means patio dining! Second, it's the peak of our region's growing season, which gives our area's talented chefs an opportunity to showcase so many fresh, local ingredients on their menus, from fruit grown at Green Bluff to fresh-caught seafood and so much more.
Get out there and satisfy your cravings! ♦