Nanaimo's "Dine About" generates new members, buzz

Innovating Chambers

The Greater Nanaimo Chamber's inaugural "Dine About" event this year attracted 29 participating restaurants including a dozen new Chamber members, plus generated revenue and buzz for the Chamber.

"It's a good news story for sure," said Chamber CEO Kim Smythe.

Kim said the inspiration behind the 17-day event came from seeing similar events run in Vancouver and Victoria. Kim said the Chamber found a keen partner in the BC Food and Restaurant Association (BCFRA), figured out how to monetize the event, created marketing collateral and the event was born.

To participate, Kim said, restaurants needed to be members of both the Greater Nanaimo Chamber and the BCFRA, plus pay a fee for the Dine About event. The Chamber, he said, was able to generate money through both new memberships, commission on BCFRA memberships, plus event fees.

To promote the event, he said, the Chamber ran print ads plus 180 radio spots highlighting the event, which he said the Chamber was able to achieve at a low cost due to a media partnership with the radio station plus by a deal whereby the Chamber provided $1,000 worth of $50 restaurant gift certificates (part of the cost of entry for restaurant participants) to the local paper in lieu of cash, so as to lower the advertising bill.

Additionally, Kim said, the Chamber coordinated a social media campaign for the participating restaurants, including providing them with some coaching and tweets to make it easy for them to participate and spread the word.

Kim said the event has more than paid off  - and that as a bonus, it has sparked media interest and generated great publicity for the Chamber.

On the membership front, he said, "It was a really good vehicle to sell memberships to businesses that legendarily say they're always broke. Restaurants are hungry for something new to bring people in in the quieter time of the year."

Kim said the Chamber "most definitely" plans to run the event again next year.

For any other Chambers interested in running a similar event, Kim said: "I strongly recommend that Chambers don't short sell themselves."

He said that his Chamber needed to hold the line with restaurants looking for additional discounts on the already-discounted price of $550 for dual memberships plus the event fee (down from a face value of $900). "You need to explain the value."

He added that he'd recommend that Chambers establish their media partnerships ahead of time, to book the ad space and be able to use the promotional package as a selling point with restaurants.