Binghamton University’s Rosh Hashana break overlapped with the city’s twice-annual Restaurant Week, meaning fewer students were in town to dine at the 25 participating restaurants.
Binghamton Restaurant Week, organized by eatBING, occurs every fall and spring in Downtown Binghamton. The 10-day event offers students, locals and visitors discounted meals at restaurants from predetermined menus. Usually, Restaurant Week is packed with BU students looking to score deals on fine dining, but this fall, the four-day Rosh Hashana break fell near the beginning of the event. The break began on Sept. 21. and classes resumed on Sept. 25, giving students only six days to attend Restaurant Week ― two days before the break, and four days after.
For restaurant owners like David Whalen of Binghamton Hots, this meant that fewer students might turn out for Restaurant Week. Whalen wrote in an email that his restaurant had experienced a drop in student business, but numbers were still good overall.
“Business has been quite good so far this fall, though I haven’t yet had a chance to compare with last year,” Whalen wrote. “I would say this fall has been better than last spring. While we do typically see a fair amount of student business for restaurant week, this year I have noticed a decline which can most likely be attributed to the break.”
According to Marie McKenna, owner of the Lost Dog Café and a member of eatBING Restaurant Week committee, it is too soon to tell if the break has taken a toll on business.
“It’s hard to tell if we are busier than last year; I usually wait to assess the number of guests served until the event has come to completion,” McKenna wrote in an email. “Various factors affect whether people come out in the beginning of the event or towards the end.”
McKenna also said the University’s frequently changing calendar made it challenging for the eatBING committee to plan Restaurant Week around breaks. Although the event was held in October last fall, McKenna said it was necessary for Restaurant Week to take place in September this year, limiting scheduling options.
“Our committee organizes this event a year in advance and for various reasons we need it to be held in September,” McKenna wrote. “We make efforts to avoid the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur when scheduling restaurant week, but depending on where they fall, it’s not always possible. We also like to avoid scheduling on Homecoming and Family Weekends as those dates are really intense for us all.”
Eugenie Zynda, owner of The Shop, said roughly half of her staff is made up of BU students, whom she had asked to stay in town over the break for Restaurant Week.
“Restaurant Week takes all hands on deck,” Zynda wrote in an email. “We have a tight team and everyone understands that. The increase in business makes it well worth their time and they are able to boost their incomes!”
Although Zynda said that she had seen a decrease in business during the break, she said she was hoping to see more students coming in for Restaurant Week following the break.
“Because of increased use of local promotional outlets, this [Restaurant Week] brought out area residents all week long,” Zynda wrote. “We did have a lighter than expected Saturday brunch, a time that we typically see a lot of student traffic. We do expect to see many students come in for the second half of [Restaurant Week], once they return from break, through Thursday, Sept. 28th. This means, that instead of seeing a sharp drop in traffic during the second week, as we sometimes do, we are expecting steady student traffic next week.”
Sen Mabry, a junior majoring in political science, was skeptical about business being as good this fall as in previous Restaurant Weeks. Mabry, who has attended Restaurant Week before, went to Sake-Tumi with friends over break.
“We and another group that was with us were the only students, but it was mostly Binghamton residents,” Mabry said. “Everybody was away for Rosh Hashana, and I think a lot of people don’t know about it.”
Although this fall may draw fewer students to Restaurant Week than usual, the week is still set to be popular among residents and visitors.
“Many students from BU & SUNY Broome come out for Restaurant Week along with locals, business people by day and groups of friends by evening,” McKenna wrote. “More recently we’ve seen people traveling from other areas, including Scranton, Syracuse, Ithaca, Owego, Whitney Point and Windsor.”