Restaurants get creative outside the kitchen

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Restaurants get creative outside the kitchen

Flavour campaign markets the spice of Red Bank’s life

I t could be argued that the backbone of Red Bank’s vitality is the restaurants that feed the visitors coming into town, but restaurateurs are taking it one step further by launching Flavour, a culinary marketing campaign set on bringing them there. “It’s a tough environment and sometimes the best ideas come from tough times,” said George Lyristis, owner of The Bistro at Red Bank on Broad Street and Teak on Monmouth Street.

The Bistro at Red Bank on Broad Street (l-r) and Front St. Trattoria on West Front Street are among the eateries promoting the new Flavour campaign, which spotlights the dining scene in Red Bank. KRISTEN DALTON

In an effort to avoid being swallowed up by the rough economy, restaurateurs launched as a one-stop location for information regarding the town’s restaurant scene. “The goal, first and foremost, is to get Red Bank back on track. The writing was on the wall that if the town goes down, our business goes down, so we wanted to nip it in the bud. We wanted to stop the bleeding,” said Lyristis.

The culinary campaign was developed by Flavour’s restaurant committee and marketing firm M Studio over the summer and spotlights numerous places to eat, sip and savor the foods produced by the town’s culinary scene.

“No one’s going to care about your business more than you. So why put it into the hands of other people when we can do it ourselves?” asked Lyristis.

Lyristis said the economy isn’t the only challenge restaurateurs face. The growth of the dining scene in nearby Long Branch and Asbury Park is a reminder that Red Bank needs to revitalize, he said.

“All those places took a sliver of our pie. Ten years ago our pie was a lot bigger. There’s nothing wrong with that, all towns have to try and better themselves, but you as a business owner have to figure out how to maintain and bring more into town,” he said.

“You have to be proactive instead of just thinking, ‘Hey, we’re Red Bank.’ No, that’s not the case. You always have to keep proving, showing people that we’re still here.”

The new website features 37 different dining spots located in Red Bank, from bakeries and coffee shops to fine dining.

Judy Matthew, owner of Dish, a restaurant on White Street, said the marketing campaign was a long time in the making.

“We’ve kind of been standing by and watching; the marketing efforts for the restaurants wasn’t exactly the direction we wanted, so we decided to grab the bull by the horns and be responsible for our own destiny,” she said.

“We decided to put together something and market it specifically toward restaurants, but ultimately we do want to incorporate other things in the Flavour campaign because it doesn’t just mean flavor in foods but also the flavor of the town.”

Matthew said Red Bank offers something for everyone — and not just during the summer months. Flavour creates a sleek, sophisticated Web presence that resembles the personality of the town, she said.

“I think of Red Bank as sophisticated but not to the point where we take ourselves too seriously. It appeals to every level [of dining]. There are a lot of restaurants in a small space.”

Valerie Aufiero, owner of the Front Street Trattoria on West Front Street, said it is the town’s rich culture and diversity that draws people in.

“There’s so much to offer in Red Bank besides just restaurants. We have a movie theater the arts theaters, the antiques center and the galleries. There’s so much more to Red Bank than just the restaurants,” she said.

Marketing the town’s businesses is largely left to RiverCenter, a business alliance established in 1991 to manage and revitalize the business district.

According to Aufiero, the restaurant committee currently has a cohesive relationship with River- Center, albeit with some challenges and growing pains during the process.

“There are always obstacles when you start things up, because no one quite grasps exactly what you’re trying to do. But we work with them,” she said.

According to Aufiero, the core restaurant committee meets with RiverCenter once a month, and members communicate more frequently with meetings every two weeks in addition to phone calls and emails.

The constant communication is unique for such a large group of restaurateurs invested heavily in a common cause.

“I think what’s unique about us is that we’re working together so well and there’s no competition between any of us. We all think we’re all doing a great job. And just the fact that restaurant people can get along and egos stay out of it is just incredible,” said Aufiero.

This isn’t the first time the Red Bank restaurateurs have banded together. Throughout the summer, the restaurants, in conjunction with RiverCenter, organized the Red Bank Food and Wine Walk that featured samplings for $25 per person. The funds raised from the summerlong program were used to fund the Flavour marketing campaign.

“We’re bargaining, so to speak, food for marketing dollars. When we do a wine walk, it really does cost the restaurants because we don’t get the money in hand, it goes into the restaurant fund. We decided to put themoney into a use that will be a little more advantageous for all of us,” explained Aufiero.

On Dec. 1, Flavour will kick off the holiday season with a culinary affair at The Oyster Point Hotel from 6 to 9 p.m. More than 20 of the town’s most popular restaurants invite guests to a sampling of cuisine and cocktails.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit Lunch Break and the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen, which opened on Oct. 19 on Monmouth Street.

Lyristis thought that Tom Capello, owner of Gaetano’s on Wallace Street, said it best in a recent conversation.

“Capello said Red Bank is like a carousel. You get on, you get off. As long as people keep coming into that carousel, we don’t care where they go. They’re going to come to us at any given point. We just have to bring them into Red Bank.”

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