During the week-long event, which runs until February 17th, restaurateurs will welcome many new guests in what otherwise would be one of the quietest weeks of the year.
The hope for business owners is for guests to return during the year and pay regular prices. But does the special offer give new diners an unrealistic picture of value when eating out?
“The concept is that all of the participating restaurants serve a three-course menu, including a bottle of mineral water, for 215 kroner plus booking fee per person,” Nusha Riis Hassani, marketing manager with Dining Week, explained in a written comment to The Local.
“Dining Week is the biggest restaurant festival in Northern Europe. Since 2011, Dining Week has been held every year in week seven [February 11th-17th, ed.], and now includes more than 50 cities around Denmark. There are more than 200 participating restaurants, and more than 100,000 guests,” Hassani wrote.
That sounds like an impressive boost for restaurants and an offer worth taking for customers, but both need to consider long-term value, according to Lars Bjerregaard, food columnist with newspaper Politiken.
“I can see why some restaurants think that it's a good idea, because they get a full restaurant in an otherwise slow week, but I also think that people who buy tickets for dining week are probably not people who will come back during the year,” Bjerregaard told The Local.
“People might get the wrong impression of what it actually costs to make good food in a restaurant, so that's the problem with it,” he added.
The relatively high cost of dining out in Denmark makes clear the advantages and drawbacks of discount campaigns for restaurateurs and guests alike, the food critic said.
“It's always been very expensive to dine in Copenhagen, compared to other places like Berlin and New York it's still pretty expensive. The prices have just plummeted throughout the last five to six years because the competition is so fierce.
“So when you do Dining Week people still want a discount, but a discount compared to what? The prices are still way, way too low to make a healthy living in the restaurant business,” he said.
Owners of restaurants taking part in the promotion were positive about its role in their businesses.
“The timing of Dining Week is perfect. Over Christmas, people have been eating too much, spending too much and drinking with both hands. Then in January and February everyone decides to eat less, drink less and spend less,” said Lau Leth-Larsen, owner of Cava Bar, a New Nordic restaurant in Copenhagen’s Inner City.
For others, the food festival is a way to test a new concept or type of cuisine.
“Dining Week is a good opportunity,” said David de Silva, owner and founder of Kandy Spices, a supplier of Sri Lankan ingredients and seasoning, and pop-up restaurant Hoppers, a participant in this year's event.
“Three years ago, I had a restaurant. In the beginning I was a little sceptical and I was thinking that I can either close for the week, because it was so quiet, or I could be part of Dining Week,” De Silva told The Local.
“This is a good way for me to introduce the brand Kandy Spices and the Sri Lankan cuisine to a lot of people who are not only in my surroundings. People also come from the countryside, so they are not (just) the locals who book (during Dining Week). So, for me it's quite cool,” he added.
“I also use it to try out new stuff. I used to do French cooking and now I am doing Sri Lankan cooking because my father's side of the family is Sri Lankan. But I never actually did Sri Lankan cooking because I didn't feel that I knew how to cook it right. I could never get the right flavours, like that. But now after a few years cooking more and more Sri Lankan I feel confident.
“I thought Dining Week was a good way to do some research and maybe take the first step to opening a Sri Lankan restaurant,” he said.
David de Silva. Photo: Kandy Spices
The restaurant owner said he was happy with the response to the offer so far.
“In the old days [previous years when the offer was run, ed.], everybody was sold out for sure, and now I can see that quite a lot of restaurants still have empty seats.
“But I'm happy though. Maybe it's because it's a new concept that we are serving. We will be serving the rice and curries, the way that it is eaten properly in Sri Lanka,” De Silva said.
Meanwhile, Cava Bar is using the event as an occasion to kick off a new menu, owner Leth-Larsen said, while the restaurant will also look to bring visitors to its new location in a historic canal-side area of central Copenhagen.
In this location, demand is for something local, according to Cava Bar’s owner.
“If I go to Barcelona, I don't immediately seek out a Danish restaurant or a Chinese restaurant, I go for the Catalan. It makes sense for us to serve the traditional Danish food. We don't want to do the traditional, traditional. We want to do something new but with the focus on Danish produce,” Leth-Larsen said.
Regardless of the long-term viability of discount offers like Dining Week for businesses, it’s a great opportunity for internationals and regular visitors to Copenhagen to try out the city’s extensive restaurant scene, Bjerregaard told The Local.
“[Potential customers] should definitely go for it. There are probably people like you and I, who dream of going to this and that restaurant but it's too expensive. So, go for it! Just be completely aware that it's not the real deal you are getting. It's a discount version, you do not get the real deal in Dining Week,” he said.
Dining Week is held from February 10th-17th. Tickets are available on the Dining Week website and remain on sale until Sunday, February 17th.