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Editor's Note: This story is unlocked for everyone to read courtesy of the CRVA, our partner in nourishing culinary exploration for residents and visitors of the Queen City.

March 9, 2023

CRVA kicks off culinary tourism initiative

Savor Charlotte brings special events, menus, and dishes to diners

by Kristen Wile

Unpretentious Palate’s Meat & Potatoes Dinner will take place during Savor Charlotte. Photo by Peter Taylor

This week, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority kicked off what will become an annual initiative to promote Charlotte’s culinary scene: Savor Charlotte. Savor will run from March 8 to March 22, with restaurants across the city offering special menus, events, and tastings. The focus will include media spends and marketing within a 250-mile radius of the city, at no cost to the restaurants participating. Some places are offering special menu items, such as Geno D’s in The Market at 7th Street’s Jersey-style pizza, others — including Forchetta and Mimosa Grill — are offering fixed-price menus. There are also several special events scattered throughout the programming, including our Meat & Potatoes dinner, which will showcase chefs in a way the city rarely gets to experience.

According to Gina Sheridan, chief marketing officer of CRVA, culinary is one of the four key pillars the tourism board focuses on when looking to drive visitors to the city — one that has taken a bigger focus over the past decade. So far, CRVA has taken chefs to the James Beard House and Charleston Wine & Food to spread awareness of our culinary talents. Last year, chefs and mixologists went down to Greenville, South Carolina, for a Charlotte restaurant takeover. Savor Charlotte is the latest in that culinary push. While marketing is taking place outside, getting locals out to the restaurants is also a priority.

“It’s really important that we connect with the local residents and create ambassadors out of them so that when they bring friends and family to Charlotte, they’re able to take them out to experience the restaurants and see what it’s all about,” Sheridan says. “So our goal with this, which is similar to what we had done at Charleston Wine and Food, and then also at James Beard House, is really threefold: Raise awareness of Charlotte’s diverse culinary offerings, to really tell the story of Charlotte, and to establish a strong branding presence in target markets.”

Savor will bring the city a concentrated push over a limited period of time. That decision in part stems from CRVA’s belief that the city can now sustain such an event. A decade ago, the city had far fewer restaurants capable of putting on the array of events taking part this month. However, over that decade there has also been a building of promotion to help steer the opinions of foodies regarding Charlotte’s food scene.

“You go out year one and plant that seed and then it’s not just a silver bullet,” Sheridan says. “… It’s the repetitiveness of it. It’s really making sure, when we’re investing $7 million a year in paid advertising and you do that for six or eight years, it really drives the perception of a destination.”

CRVA is committed to giving Savor Charlotte a chance to become a signature event for the city, with plans to bring the event back next year already in the works. There is also a restaurant takeover likely coming to Raleigh, with CRVA sending Charlotte chefs once again to a new city where they can show off their skills to guests in other restaurants. With visitors to Charlotte spending a quarter of the $7.8 billion they bring to the city on food and beverage, focusing on programming that highlights food and beverage is a clear priority.

“You can see how important food and beverage and the whole culinary experience is when a visitor comes to a destination, and that’s continuing to grow,” Sheridan says. “It’s also important to note that one in nine people in Charlotte are employed in the hospitality industry. And of those one in nine people, 70 percent of those jobs are in food service. So initiatives like this not only impact the visitor economy and what we’re able to offer to visitors, but also the livelihoods of our residents because they’re so dependent on the food service industry and hospitality and tourism in general.”

See the full list of events taking place during Savor Charlotte on CRVA’s website.

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