Ready, Set, Eat: '10 Days in Tosa' Offers Oodles of Dining Choices
New fundraiser markets city as dining destination, helps a growing Chamber of Commerce keep up.
As Tosafest ushers out summer, the Wauwatosa Chamber of Commerce hopes to usher in ongoing interest in the city by featuring its culinary fare with a new fundraising event, 10 Days in Tosa.
The dining event, which begins today and runs through Sept. 21, is a new fundraiser for the chamber that springs from the need to find new revenue sources to sustain the organization’s recent and continued growth spurt and the related need to grow member services and programs, said Meg McKenna, executive director.
As evidence of the chamber’s growth, McKenna said, her 30-hour-a-week position has evolved into a full-time position, and the chamber office manager’s hours have been bumped from 15 hours a week to 25. The chamber primarily has relied on member dues to fund its annual budget of about $80,000, but needs to find new sources of revenue to keep apace with its growth, McKenna said.
“With that growth comes the need to increase our (financial) resources,” McKenna said.
Tosa as Dining Destination
The 10 Days in Tosa event was a natural fundraising option as the city has blossomed in recent years as a dining destination, according to McKenna. In 2010, she said, Wauwatosa and environs had the most restaurants of any city featured among the top 30 Milwaukee area restaurants by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s dining critic Carol Deptolla. Three of the restaurants are in the city proper; two are just barely beyond the city border.
That recognition spawned the idea for a fundraiser that tapped the strength of Tosa’s dining appeal to draw more people from throughout the metro area into the city, McKenna said.
The $10, 10 Days in Tosa cards allows cardholders to access $10 deals at 21 restaurants. Revenue from the card sales goes directly to the chamber, while the restaurants underwrite the costs of dining deals.
In addition to online sales, the cards are available for purchase at chamber office, the Crowne Plaza Hotel Milwaukee West, the Radisson Hotel Milwaukee West, and the city’s three M&I Bank locations, at 9201 W. North Ave., 7501 W. North Ave. and 7635 W. Bluemound Rd.
Group sales of the cards also are an option, with discounts of 25 percent for 25 to 99 cards, and 50 percent for 100 cards or more.
Bolstering businesses pushes past boundaries
The timing for the event is intended to bolster business during the predictable lull that occurs after summer ends and fall routines return, said Chris Leffler, owner of Leff’s Lucky Town at 7207 W. State St.
Leffler said the special offers may bring people in to restaurants they might not otherwise try, allowing people to discover a new favorite or even other nearby businesses.
“You get cross-traffic and get people out and get some new customers to discover what else is out there,” Leffler said. “It’s exposure, exposure, exposure.”
A small handful of the 21 restaurants featured during the 10-day event fall just beyond Tosa’s borders in Milwaukee, but such boundaries are blurred in the eyes of the chamber and of customers.
The chamber doesn’t serve Tosa businesses alone, McKenna said, but “represents people doing business in Tosa or those who want to do business with Tosans.”
Similarly, restaurateurs view themselves as a community without boundaries, Leffler said.
“We all do a good job of showing support for each other,” Leffler said. “You have to look at it as a restaurant or bar industry. We feed off of each other and complement each other.”
Tosa’s dining week has been touted in print, posters, word of mouth, table tents, social media and social networking groups. The goal is to sell 1,000 of the $10 cards, bringing in up to $10,000 for the chamber, McKenna said, although she believes Tosa’s dining appeal could push card sales well past the goal. Restaurant owners planned to email their specific client lists, which for some is a list of 4,000 so even a small percentage of sales drummed up via email blasts could be significant, McKenna said.
The event is intended to draw people from around the metro area, as well as Wauwatosa residents who often look beyond the city when deciding where to dine.
“I’m excited about getting some new foot traffic,” said Leffler, whose restaurant has been in the village for 17 years. “A lot of people drive by Leff’s and have never been in here.”
But the 10 Days in Tosa event is not just about dining, and it is not just about the village, Leffler said. The event serves as a springboard for marketing Wauwatosa as a whole, he said, by drawing more people into the city for a special dining offer that can lead to discovering other things the city has to offer.
Click on any name to find info on hours and location:
Blue's Egg, Cafe Hollander, Dave & Buster's, Firefly Urban Bar & Grill, Hector's, Il Mito, Innovation Restaurant, Jimmy's Island Grill & Iguana Bar, Juniper 61, Leff's Lucky Town, Le Reve Patisserie & Cafe, Maggiano's Little Italy, Maxie's Southern Comfort, McCormick & Schmick's, Meritage Restaurant, Mo's Irish Pub, Open Hearth, Pizzeria Piccola, Ristorante Bartolotta, Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse, Saz's State House