Hillsborough restaurant owners prepare for third annual Restaurant Week

A group of ladies enjoy their outdoor dining experience at Old Man Rafferty's on June 23. Old Man Rafferty's will participate in the Hillsborough Business Association's third annual Restaurant Week from September 29-October 4.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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A group of ladies enjoy their outdoor dining experience at Old Man Rafferty's on June 23. Old Man Rafferty's will participate in the Hillsborough Business Association's third annual Restaurant Week from September 29-October 4.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

A summertime staple over the past few years in the Hillsborough community will be on hand next week for residents.

The Hillsborough Business Association (HBA) will hold its third annual Restaurant Week from Sept. 29 through Oct. 4, after many restaurants in the community voted to participate in the event this year.

The special event has given participants the opportunity to showcase their cuisines and promote their restaurants to local residents.

Restaurants will offer special deals and accommodations throughout the week to customers as a way to boost attention for residents to eat locally.

All deals and accommodations will be promoted by the HBA in its weekly press release.

“Restaurant Week has always treated us well in the past,” said Old Man Rafferty’s Manager Dylan Rose. “We’re hoping it will be a busier week than normal and people will come out to eat local.”

According to the Restaurant Week page on the Hillsborough Township website, there will be a total of 41 restaurants and fast food establishments participating in the event this year.

Mayor Doug Tomson spoke about the importance of holding Restaurant Week for the township’s establishments in a letter to the community last month.

“Despite these unprecedented times, it is important that we are flexible and creative. We are looking forward to the third annual Hillsborough Restaurant Week,” Tomson said. “Hillsborough Restaurant Week is an extraordinary way for local food establishments to show off their unique dishes while promoting their businesses and for patrons to support local businesses within our community.”

The last seven months have included many obstacles for restaurants to navigate in any way to keep their businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

Takeout and delivery operations have been the mainstay for restaurants over the course of the pandemic, while some establishments have worked with the HBA and township officials from the planning and zoning boards to set up outdoor dining services for residents dating back to mid-June.

Restaurants have had the opportunity since Sept. 4 to start offering indoor dining services at 25% capacity.
Indoor dining for Old Man Rafferty’s has been slow for the most part the first couple of weeks, Rose stated.

He hopes as time goes on, and when the colder months arrive, that people will be more comfortable with eating inside.

The restaurant has done well with outdoor dining during the summer months. Already having an outdoor patio and bar set up outside its establishment, Old Man Rafferty’s was able to space out up to 30 tables across its front lawn and patio.

“Already having a patio was a huge advantage for us,” Rose said. “With the space available, we were able to space people out safely and do more business.”

Old Man Rafferty’s ran a series of Car Hop Dining & Live Concert events during the summer and Rose said there are currently talks going on about doing something similar throughout the fall.

Just like the past few months, Rose hopes that Restaurant Week will bring the same amount of support that Old Man Rafferty’s has seen from the community.

“A lot of our regulars in the community have continued to come out to support us. It’s wonderful to see,” he said.

Caffe Piazza Owner Antonio Ruffa is also optimistic about residents coming out to support local businesses.

He said he anticipates his restaurant’s sales will go up around 30-40% during the event.

“We are looking forward to giving back to the community,” Ruffa said. “Hopefully it’s a beautiful week and people will come out to support their local restaurants.”

Cafe Piazza has stayed super busy during the course of the pandemic, he said. Takeout orders have been strong and the restaurant has done well with outdoor dining, incorporating heaters and an overhang to help residents feel more comfortable.

The restaurant has slowly started incorporating indoor dining to the mix as well, Ruffa said.

Restaurant Week will also give new establishments in the township a chance to promote their business to the community.

Chez Elody, an authentic Haitian cuisine restaurant, opened its doors to the public just three months ago.

Co-owner Diana Holness didn’t shy away from saying it was “a little bit challenging” opening up a new business during a pandemic.

The restaurant had to configure ways to try to do outdoor dining and rely on takeout and delivery orders, while also trying to spread word of mouth about their establishment.

So far, though, Holness says Chez Elody has been doing well and that the Hillsborough community has been very kind to her restaurant.

“We have gotten good feedback from people,” Holness said. “Customers that have come in on the first day have been coming back. It’s looking good.”

The restaurant currently offers indoor dining services to the public.

According to Holness, Chez Elody can serve about 30 people and has six tables spaced out in the restaurant.

In regards to Restaurant Week, Holness hopes the event will help spread the word about her food and her establishment’s family-friendly atmosphere.

 

One thing Holness knows for sure about her restaurant is that customers will taste flavors that they haven’t had before.

“The food is on another level because of how fresh it is,” she said. “It’s 100% natural, has no preservatives and is made from scratch.”