"Come Dine With Us" supports local restaurants and youth

·3 min read

Restaurants have been hit particularly hard in the global pandemic, forced to shut their doors to in-person dining, pivot to take-out and delivery options, and shift back and forth on the turn of a dime depending on the most current health advice.

But there’s a new way to support local restaurants in Aurora while helping local youth at the same time.

“Come Dine With Us!”, a new initiative of the Optimist Club of Aurora, is a $20 collection of coupons showcasing more than $200 worth of deals from local eateries. Now being sold throughout the community by Optimist members, 100 per cent of the proceeds will be invested in local youth programs, including providing funds for healthy snacks in schools.

“Our fundraising committee was looking at options and we started talking about the need in the community to help restaurants that are struggling to stay open,” says Optimist Greg Way who has taken the lead on Come Dine With Us for the service club. “I made a comment about how I used to buy restaurant coupon books from other groups, would open them up, and after I got them found the restaurants were in Thornhill or Scarborough. The idea was what if we did a coupon book just for local Aurora restaurants, sell it locally within Aurora and see what happens?”

Of course, to see if the coupon book was feasible, they had to take the idea to local restaurants to gauge interest.

“I will never forget walking into one local restaurant, all the chairs were on the tables, and… I told the restaurant owner what the idea was and he almost started to cry,” Mr. Way recalls. “He said, ‘If I was allowed to give you a hug, I would. I can’t believe you would do this to try and help keep the restaurants open and bring in new customers.’ We got the same feedback from all these different places.”

The Come Dine With Us initiative aims to sell 400 coupon books. These include 22 coupons from 20 different restaurants from Harvey’s, Swiss Chalet and Toppers Pizza, to standalone favourites like Romy’s and Aqua Grill.

A particular selling point for the restaurants is it costs them nothing to be a part of it; all they need to do is come up with a deal that would incentivize patrons to get some take-out or delivery and honour the deal they offered.

“We don’t want any money from the restaurants, but if someone comes in and wants an entrée, we ask the restaurant owners, what would you give them as an incentive to come back a second time? There’s an opportunity here of having over 400 new groups of customers,” says Mr. Way. “When they looked at it that way, their eyes lit up. Every single one of them is struggling and there is no doubt in my mind there are some who will say, ‘I put an expiry date on the coupon. I just hope I’m in business a year from now. We haven’t even officially released the book yet and already we have sold 140 of the 400 coupon books just by quick word of mouth that we were doing this. I think there is a great demand in the community to try and help other restaurants.

“This was initially strictly done to help the restaurants but we knew we had to put a value on it and sell them. 100 per cent of the funds we’re raising will be going towards helping the youth in Aurora by expanding our Healthy Snacks program, giving money to elementary schools to help them provide snacks for the kids throughout the year.”

To secure your Come Dine With Us coupon book, email auroraoptimist@gmail.com or contact your favourite Optimist Club of Aurora member.

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran