by Terri Reifsteck, Visit Champaign County
The 5th Annual Champaign County Area Restaurant Week: Takeout Edition is back to make an impact on the local food industry during this nine-day celebration, from January 29–February 6, though it will look a little different.
Beginning in 2017, the Champaign County Area Restaurant Week became a notable event in the community to showcase the area’s award-winning culinary scene. Created by Visit Champaign County, the event was timed to fall during a traditionally slow period for area restaurants in order to help drive foot traffic and boost sales in the January and February months. The first year of the event, 17 restaurants participated and grew to 35 in 2020.
During the nine-day celebration, friends, families, and colleagues gathered at participating restaurants to take advantage of special menus from breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Restaurants saw significant increases in sales, with many new customers discovering their offerings for the first time.
Beyond the benefit to restaurants, many local suppliers enjoyed increased business as well. With numerous restaurants utilizing local ingredients from area farms and suppliers such as the Central Illinois Bakehouse, suppliers saw sales increase in order to meet the demand during Restaurant Week.
The fifth-year of this event falls during the COVID-19 pandemic, where the restaurant industry has faced a nearly insurmountable toll. With in-person dining unavailable in order to keep staff and customers safe, many area restaurants have shown tremendous resolve and ingenuity in adapting in order to remain open.
Finding a way to host the 5th Annual Champaign County Area Restaurant Week was critical for Visit Champaign County. After engaging in conversations with past participants, a Takeout Edition was formed, allowing restaurants to continue to serve area foodies at home.
While many challenges persist for participating restaurants, the menus and specials that area chefs have created are sure to delight the tastebuds in our households. With family packs, meals for two, and meals for one available for takeout, this year’s event will feed even more residents and continue to aid restaurants and suppliers in boosting sales, and creating new customers who will come back when doors re-open.
Numerous new restaurants join us this year to showcase their offerings, including stops that have long supported the use of local ingredients. Hopscotch Bakery + Market, Farren’s Pub & Eatery, and Wood N’ Hog Barbecue are among the many new restaurants offering specials joining establishments such as The WheelHouse, Hamilton Walker’s, and The Dancing Dog Eatery that have participated since the event’s inception.
While we’ll miss seeing seats full and friends gathering to share a meal in our local restaurants, we are excited to find ways for more people to discover and support local flavors from the comfort and safety of their own home.
Check out the menus and start making your plans for the week at ccrestaurantweek.org!