Enticing Guests and Profits

Coolinary campaign poised to help restaurants reemerge from the pandemic, attract tourists


Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on BizNewOrleans.com.


Earlier this summer, friends from New York City vacationed in New Orleans for a long weekend. When I started suggesting all of the things they should consider doing during their visit, one laughed and said, “We came to New Orleans to eat and to drink.” In that statement, I was reminded that even people visiting from other food meccas are drawn to New Orleans by our world-class restaurants and hospitality.

To prove their point, over their four-day stay my friends enjoyed Willa Jean, Pêche, Atchafalaya, Toast on Laurel Street, Café du Monde at the French Market, Coop’s Place, and Sucré, not to mention drinks at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, The Spotted Cat, The Maison and Alto. From James Beard Award winners to Purple Drank, my friends flexed their palates and loved each experience for what it was. Their long weekend itinerary is typical for so many tourists in New Orleans and that is why programs like New Orleans & Company’s Coolinary New Orleans are important for both locals and visitors.

Coolinary returned last month and will run through Sept. 5, keeping last year’s COVID-19-response innovation of allowing takeout and delivery options from some participating restaurants. The website also enables users to search for restaurants that offer outdoor seating. The increased time span for the summer campaign is important for our restaurants, which have struggled to stay open during the pandemic.

“A perennial favorite, Coolinary New Orleans appeals to locals and visitors alike,” said New Orleans & Company President and CEO Stephen Perry in a statement. “We are hopeful that this campaign will provide much-needed support to our restaurant community as it continues to recover from the pandemic. The campaign showcases inventive menus created by award-winning chefs, highlighting the authentic cuisine of New Orleans at a great value.”

Participating restaurants offer special two- and three-course lunch menus for $25 or less and three-course dinner and brunch menus for $45 or less. The price caps are slightly higher than last year, at $22 for lunch and $40 for dinner and brunch, allowing restaurants to keep their quality offerings in the current economic climate. More than 75 restaurants are involved this year, an increase of about 40% from 2020, but still lower than pre-pandemic numbers.

New Orleans & Company, a 1,100-member destination marketing organization, is encouraging more restaurants to join Coolinary while the campaign is ongoing by offering free organization membership to restaurants. Membership is a prerequisite for restaurants to participate in Coolinary, and includes additional benefits thoughout the year.

The free membership removes the barrier of participation while many restaurants are still struggling to hire staff and make up for lost revenue from the past year. According to the National Restaurant Association, job openings are at a record high. Nationwide, June was the sixth consecutive month of staffing growth, but despite the steady increase, jobs are still 10% below pre-pandemic levels.

Increased commodity pricing is another challenge for restaurants. Based on data from the Producer Price Index for all Foods, average wholesale food prices increased 8.7% from January to May, the most recent month available at publication. Especially sharp increases occurred from April to May, including beef (14.3%), fresh vegetables (9%), fats and oils (7.9%), flour (7.4%), processed poultry (2.1%), pork (1.8%) and dairy products (1.7%). The Coolinary campaign is well positioned to help our restaurants, from fine dining to casual counter service, make up for lost revenue at a time when they need to attract customers without passing sharp cost increases on to the consumer.

Concurrently with Coolinary, New Orleans & Company is running a Summer Travel Advisor FAM (familiarization trip), which offers discounted hotel rates and packages, as well as VIP Passes by request, to bring travel industry influencers and advisors back to New Orleans to help market our hospitality and status as a top destination.

“This summer is a wonderful time to experience New Orleans,” said New Orleans & Company Senior Vice President of Tourism Kim Priez in a statement. “This FAM is a great opportunity to remember what visitors have missed about the Crescent City. With the increase in vaccine distribution, we are looking forward to welcoming guests in a safe way with continued COVID protocols in place, but there has never been a better time to enjoy our city’s authentic cuisine, attractions and live music.”

To search for participating Coolinary restaurants, even drilling down by minority-ownership status, neighborhood and type of cuisine, visit neworleans.com/coolinary. For restaurants interested in New Orleans & Company membership for Coolinary and more, email membership@neworleans.com.