Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Kickstart the year at local restaurants

Savor Fort Wayne gets 2021 off to great start

Michele DeVinney

Whatzup Features Writer

Published January 6, 2021

Each year, Savor Fort Wayne helps to relieve the post-holiday doldrums by providing an excuse to check out the amazingly diverse and delicious dining options available in our city.

With specials designed to encourage visiting new places, Savor has helped build up business for restaurants that are always trying to expand their clientele.

Flexibility for the challenge

Savor Fort Wayne had been originally designed to get people into the doors, limiting the specials to dine-in only.

But with the challenges restaurants were facing in 2020 — and much of Visit Fort Wayne’s programming canceled due to the pandemic — a new summer edition was hatched, one which allowed for both dine-in and carryout options, bringing in people who were perhaps not yet comfortable with eating inside a restaurant.

“The summer edition of Savor Fort Wayne came at a good time,” said Tim Willis, general manager of Eddie Merlot’s. “Restaurants had just reopened and we were all unsure how busy we’d be.

“I feel that Savor was an additional enticement for guests to take those first, tentative steps into the post-shutdown world and gave us a chance to show them all of the protocols that we have in place for their, and our staff’s, safety. It was a boost of confidence that the public and restaurants needed and provided a ‘normalcy’ that we all needed to see.”

Capacity and carry-outs

This year, as restaurants have had to step back again with additional capacity restrictions, there are more unknowns.

And with outdoor dining no longer an option for many places, Visit Fort Wayne has approached Savor 2021 with the flexibility that allowed for options as diners again question how comfortable they are eating out.

“We were super thrilled with the feedback we got after the Summer Savor,” Emily Stuck, programs and events manager for Visit Fort Wayne, said in the weeks leading up to this month’s Savor.

“The response was so heartfelt, and the success of summer made me feel very positive about what we were doing with this year’s Savor. There are a lot of places that were new in the summer that have joined again for this January. Unfortunately we’re back to 50 percent capacity, and we’ve lost outdoor dining.

“We’re still including carryout among the options, and restaurant staffs are working hard to make people feel safe dining in. We’re also really encouraging people to buy gift cards to help these businesses until people feel safe eating out again.”

There are 49 restaurants participating this year, including 11 new restaurants and an additional location for perennial participant Shigs In Pit.

From January 13-24 — a span which includes two weekends — the restaurants will offer three-course meals for special prices.

Stuck said there are other offerings to sweeten the pot.

“We’re going to have other promotions also,” she said. “We have overnight hotel packages because many of our hotels have been struggling, too. We had a lot of great programming and special events planned in 2020 that would have brought people to our hotels and restaurants, and all of that was canceled. So we really want to give them opportunities to bring in some business.”

Stepping up the safety

Having had success with the Summer Savor, Eddie Merlot’s is happy to participate again this January, particularly given its somewhat older clientele.

“We’re hoping that the January Savor Fort Wayne will have the same effect [as the summer Savor],” Willis said. “We’ve remained very diligent in our safety protocols and are doing our best to weather the second wave.

“We understand that it’s a strange time for everyone to navigate, and we want to assure our guests that we are doing everything that we can to help them be comfortable, and confident, in dining out.”

Although Summer Savor was a success, Stuck said that there are no plans to repeat the event this upcoming summer, hoping instead that things will return to normal by fall for one of Visit Fort Wayne’s biggest annual events.

“We are not planning another Savor for summer because we’re going to begin focusing on Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown,” Stuck said.

“We hated to have to cancel last year’s, and we’re excited to begin planning for people to be out and visiting our local attractions this fall.”

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