South Bend Tribune, Ind., Heidi Prescott column [South Bend Tribune, Ind. :: ]
(South Bend Tribune (IN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 06--Record store. Country dance bar. Vintage clothing boutique. Old-fashioned soda shop.
These are just a few of the ideas area residents printed on stickers last fall on the windows of vacant storefronts in downtown South Bend -- ideas for possible businesses that could fill those vacancies over time.
"We got a lot of really great ideas -- there are so many Trader Joe fans out there -- and we received a few ideas that we can't mention in decent company," says Mara Trionfero, a community activist who is helping spearhead a new campaign aimed at downtown dining.
Trionfero noticed a number of sticker comments pertained to vegetarian and vegan options downtown. People mentioned farm-to-table restaurants, organic food choices and gluten-free dining options.
Some ideas were clearly new concepts for downtown.
But other suggestions already existed, at least to a certain extent. A number of downtown restaurants already offer vegetarian entrees and cater to special dietary needs, Trionfero says.
So she wants to hear more about the topic.
As Summer Restaurant Week concludes, Trionfero is asking diners to take part in an online survey. The survey will be available online through the end of July at http://www.thestatesb.com/tag/survey/.
"We realized that more information is required to really determine what the dining needs may be," she says.
Is there a dearth of options available to vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free diners? Do we need to do a better job of identifying the options already available at downtown restaurants? How do South Bend residents and visitors to our community find these options?
These are some of the questions being posed.
Trionfero recently sat down with Peg Dalton, owner of Le Peep, and Mark McDonnell, owner of LaSalle Grill and LaSalle Kitchen & Tavern, to discuss the benefit of obtaining such information and sharing it with downtown restaurateurs.
Dalton says the Downtown Dining Alliance is on board with Trionfero's efforts, and she is confident the survey information will have a positive impact on restaurants.
"We would like to be able to come up with a consistent way to highlight these options in our restaurants, on our menus or even with a sticker on our windows," Dalton says about vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free menu offerings. "We also want to be able to identify our own shortcomings in this area."
Fiddler's Hearth attracts a customer base that is conscious about how food is prepared and what ingredients are used, says owner Carol Meehan.
"We've actually been focused on providing vegetarian and gluten-free options for the past several years due to customer demand, and identify those options on our printed menu with icons," Meehan says.
But it never hurts to have a little extra marketing and promotion surrounding efforts like these.
Trionfero says the survey also gives area residents the chance to share their contact information if they'd like to be involved in implementing projects aimed at making the downtown dining scene easier to navigate for diners with special dietary needs.
Because the process won't stop here, she says.
"We'll follow up with a survey of the restaurateurs and figure out what options and systems are already in place," Trionfero says. "Then we'll make recommendations for moving forward toward accommodating the needs identified through the surveys."
Have you heard
The Granger Farmers Market is planning to host a Rural & Retro Fair from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 19 at its new location at 12650 Indiana 23 in Granger. Check back for more details. ... Our live chat returns on Tuesday. Let's catch up and talk about the latest local retail and restaurant news at noon Tuesday at southbendtribune.com.
Heidi Prescott's column runs on Fridays and Sundays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-235-6070. You can also talk retail at Facebook.com/thebasket and at Twitter.com/marketbasket. Hear her weekday reports at 6:52 a.m. and 8:52 a.m. on The WSBT Morning News with JT at WSBT-AM (960) and WSBT-FM (96.1).
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