Food, wine festival provides valuable ways to connect to the business community

There is no sign of summer more symbolic than the BBQ – with one of the biggest still yet to come in New Jersey.The Montclair Food and Wine Festival will host its annual Bourbon and Biergarten event on July 15 at the Wellmont Theater from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Following the nonprofit’s successful Speakeasy event in January, Bourbon and Biergarten will feature BBQ-themed tasting dishes from more than 30 local restaurants; a collection of local and national ciders, beers, wines, and spirits curated by Sharon Sevrens, proprietor of Montclair’s Amanti Vino; a spirited BBQ competition for participating vendors; and entertainment provided by the Street Beat Brass Band.

Scott Hermo, owner of Bluff City BBQ in Montclair, said taking the time to participate in events such as Bourbon and Biergarten helps to gain steady customers in different demographics and make good contacts in the local business community.

“As a new restaurant, it’s a great opportunity to get our name out there, to mingle with potential customers and other restaurant owners, and to showcase our food,” Hermo said.

Chris Siverson, owner and chef of BURG in Newark, said such events also give restaurants the opportunity to try new menu items before putting them to print.

“(We not only get) exposure to new clients, (but also, we get to) see an immediate reaction to the product,” he said.

Participating in events and festivals, however, is not without its challenges, Adam Rose, owner of Villalobos in Montclair, said.

“The challenge is finding someone who is capable of doing my job for the night that I’m away,” Rose said. “And, it’s on a Saturday, which is our busiest night of the week, generally.”

While participating in Bourbon and Biergarten may result in increased sales down the line, costs are still top of mind, Hermo said.

“This is our third event this year,” he said. “So, we try to do something cost-effective that will, at the same time, impress and leave them wanting to try more of our food.” 

Rose said he would suggest the following to any restaurant looking to get involved in similar events:

“Bring 25 percent less of what the (event planners) request you bring, and always make something to appease the masses,” he said.

Siversen added that if a restaurant is not already participating in such events, they are wasting valuable marketing opportunities.

“If you are not contacted by (a festival), you need to look up what’s happening and reach out to participate,” he said.

The Montclair Food & Wine Festival is a nonprofit organization designed to promote the education, awareness and appreciation of the culinary arts in Montclair and surrounding areas by uniting chefs, artisans, farmers and more.

Incorporated in 2011 by a group of community volunteers, local chefs, restaurateurs and industry professionals, the Montclair Food & Wine Festival has contributed to multiple charities with proceeds from its events, including Intensive Therapeutics, District Initiative for Gardening in Schools, the Montclair Academy of Culinary and Hospitality Education, and St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.

Tickets for next weekend’s event are available to those ages 21 and over, ranging from $95 for entry to $1,850 for a reserved VIP table for eight inside the Wellmont Theater.

For more information, visit https://montclairfoodandwinefestival.org/.

Meg Fry

NJBIZ Business Events