#OpenForDining campaign gives Twin Cities restaurants a boost during challenging time

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A new campaign is encouraging people to dine-in at restaurants over the next month. The #OpenForDining initiative was launched in the Twin Cities on Monday.

“We need to make sure we’re driving people and traffic to our local restaurants,” Jonathan Weinhagen, the president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, said. “Coming off the second shutdown, recognizing winter is oftentimes one of the slower seasons for restaurants, the need has never been greater.”

At a time when new customers are critical, many restaurants have scaled back their marketing budget so the Chamber is using 30 billboards around the metro to advertise for about 50 locally-owned businesses.

KSTP spoke to Weinhagen at Red Cow in the North Loop, one of the featured restaurants.

“We hope that they envision themselves coming back here, coming back to places like Red Cow,” Weinhagen said. “And enjoying the vibrancy of the hospitality community.”

Restaurants reopened for indoor dining on Jan. 11 after being restricted over the holidays.

“The last shutdown was painful because it led right up to the holiday season, which is generally the busiest time for many restaurants,” said Luke Shimp, owner of Red Cow and Red Rabbit. “That’s a huge hit. A lot of us make a fair amount of revenue during that short amount of time and that helps pay the bills through this January, February, March.”

The lunch hour on Friday was busy with many socially-distanced tables occupied.

There are six Red Cow and Red Rabbit locations.

“We do need guests, we need traffic, we need the volume,” Shimp said. “For us, we had 465 employees prior to COVID and at one point we were down to 58, and now we’re back close to pushing 200.”

Shimp hopes this new campaign will help drive new customers to restaurants around the metro.

“The more exposure we have, the more successful operators we have out there operating, it’s just better as a whole,” he said. “We’re just grateful that the Chamber has chosen to help drive traffic during this really difficult time.”

The campaign will run for three weeks, however, Weinhagen said they are already looking at how to extend it beyond that timeframe.

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