By MATT CRANE
From March 18-24, Starkville residents and visitors will have the opportunity to mix good food and a great cause as the Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau hosts the first Starkville Restaurant Week benefitting a local charity.
In an effort to promote Starkville restaurants, Greater Starkville Development Partnership CEO and Vice President of Tourism Development Jennifer Gregory said the week’s aim of making a positive economic impact on local restaurants and the community has two components.
“We are asking participating restaurants to submit a prefixed menu that showcases that restaurant’s unique flair and qualities by highlighting their most popular items or introducing new dishes,” she said. “The charity component is filled as diners eat at our local restaurants during this week and every time they dine at a participating restaurant, they can vote for one of the top three local charities we’ll feature. At the end, the charity with the most votes will receive a $5,000 check from the Starkville CVB.”
Gregory said the Starkville Restaurant Week website will highlight these specialized menus but patrons be able to order from a participating restaurant’s regular menu.
“The prefixed menus are simply there to showcase the unique flair each restaurant wishes to highlight and any time diners order an entree or more, they will receive a ballot to vote,” she said. “For the most part, however, drinks, tax and tip will not be included any specially priced menu items, so do not forget to tip those hard working servers.”
Gregory said charities — registered 501 c 3 with the Secretary of State’s office — are chosen through a nomination process which ends at 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 18.
“We are asking residents to nominate their favorite local charity and tell us why they think that charity deserves to be one of our top three contenders,” she said. “The CVB board will review the nominees and the top three will be chosen based on ability to get votes, number of nominations and a variety of other factors.”
Gregory said organizers are hoping to create a competitive atmosphere during the nomination process as a way to provide awareness and visibility to charities located throughout the Golden Triangle and those affecting members of Starkville and Oktibbeha County.
“We are hoping organizations will create campaigns and hold nominating parties as a creative way to spotlight their charities,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for them to garner local support, win money and this creates an incentive for diners to eat our several times at our wonderful local restaurants.”
Gregory said information concerning participating restaurants and prefixed menus will be updated to the Starkville Restaurant Week website as they come in, but said of several restaurants committed, owners and chefs are excited to participate in this beneficial event.
“They are excited that there is not a large investment of their part because this is meant to benefit their business,” she said. “Restaurants are looking forward to the ability to shine through their prefixed menus and being a part of the charitable donation process.”
Presented by the GSDP and working in conjunction with the Eat Y’all group, Gregory said she is excited about the partnerships in place to promote Starkville as a current restaurant destination in the Golden Triangle with its variety of culinary choices.
“We have been successful in in our promotion of our downtown retailers and as a result have seen record sales tax collections, but we have not done as many tangible promotions for our restaurants,” she said. “We are excited about the potential economic impact this event will have on our community and getting involved with this important sector.”
For more information on Starkville Restaurant Week and instructions on how to nominate a local charity, visit http://www.starkvillerestaurantweek.com  or call 662-323-3322.