A few weeks ago, I was checking out Olives & Grace when I met Dave Horesh of the Buffalo-based City Dining Cards. We got into talking about what his company does, and in an email interview, he provided some great background about CDC, selecting restaurants to spotlight and what makes the Boston scene so cool.
WLBT: Tell us a bit about the inspiration for City Dining Cards.
Dave Horesh: City Dining Cards began as a project meant to encourage people to consider the value of supporting locally owned businesses in their city. Obviously, everyone is familiar with a deck of cards. There’s a huge push toward local these days and there’s also a lot of backlash from small businesses toward today’s popular “coupon site” models, so we crafted the terms and conditions to heavily favor the restaurateur. While each deck sells for $20, every card in the deck is valid for $10 off of $30 or more. Restaurant owners helped us decide on the dollar amounts so they’re guaranteed to retain some profit even when when users only spend the minimum amount required. Plus, 5% of our company’s proceeds benefit the Greater Boston Food Bank. So it’s win-win-win for everyone involved.
How do you vet the restaurants you chose? How often do you accept new restaurants?
Spend an afternoon in any part of the city and ask locals where they like to eat and you’ll typically hear the same names echoed throughout town. What we find most often is a list of recommendations that focus on local hangouts. We’re really proud to build a list of participants who are in the midst of getting their first or second restaurants off the ground. There are hundreds (thousands?) of great restaurants in Boston to choose from, but we feel that we create a much more genuine experience for people when we help them discover their new favorite restaurant (and an owner that sincerely needs and appreciates their business) rather than giving them a cheap meal at a place they’ve visited hundreds of times. We’ll build a fresh list of participants this spring and aim to release a 2014 deck in late Fall/early Winter.
What inspires you to be a part of the ‘choose local’ movement?
There are five of us at City Dining Cards and each of us have our own reasons. Personally, I have a great deal of respect for entrepreneurship and investment in one’s community. I’ve met so many retailers and restaurant owners who have put everything on the line to realize a vision and that takes an immense level of courage. These aren’t places that have millions of dollars to invest in a hot location and a celebrity chef – they’re honest people who take out second mortgages and work 14 hour days. Time after time the food is better, the service is more attentive, and the experience is superior. We hand out “Thanks for Choosing Local!” window stickers to everyone we do business with. “Thanks for Choosing Local” doesn’t mean that you’ve chosen a business because they’re the little guy, it means you supported them because they’re the best there is.
I’m originally from Rochester, New York and I was intimidated by Boston when we first decided to try City Dining Cards here. I rented a “special rate” car at the airport, which turned out to be a Crown Victoria, and drove right to the North End to sign up restaurants. I tried to find a parking spot on Salem Street. Since then I’ve shed the naiveté and have been welcomed with open arms by so many incredible small business owners and marketers throughout the city, all of whom are constantly emailing and texting to suggest a great new restaurant who we should consider for the next deck or a new farmer’s market that we should work with. People that I originally met as customers of City Dining Cards have since become friends and give our company a tremendous amount of support. It’s easy to maintain our interest in Boston, because Boston has maintained interest in us.
Being a non-local, what makes you love Boston?
I really love that every business owner in Boston is competing to be the best in town, which yields a creativity in business that’s hard to find in other places. Bad things can’t survive in a city with high standards, which makes Boston an exciting place to visit and an exciting place to build a business.
If you were here for one weekend only, what stops would you make sure not to miss?
One weekend, eh? Let’s keep it to three spots, then:
1. Rami’s in Brookline. Best falafel in town. Actually, best falafel in New England. Maybe the best falafel in the world?
2. Breakfast at The Friendly Toast. Have you ever had their coconut pancakes? You’ve gotta try their coconut pancakes.
3. Backbar in Somerville. There’s a lot of talk about “the Art of the Cocktail”, but those bartenders really are artists. Incredible to watch.
What can we expect from City Dining Cards next?
There’s a lot of energy at our office and we’re constantly sharing ideas with one another. We’re really excited about 2013 and you can be sure that, no matter what we decide to do, it will be a really fun, light-hearted product with a pro-local focus.