Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: March 1, 2022

Maine Restaurant Week kicks off amid mixed prospects for industry

Assortment of cooked dishes Courtesy / Melissa Gabriel Photography Portland's Sur Lie, some of whose dishes are shown here, is a regular participant in Maine Restaurant Week. This year's edition will run from March 1-12.

Amid mixed prospects for an industry trying to recover from the pandemic, Maine Restaurant Week participants are looking forward to a boost in business over the next 12 days.

"We're excited to participate in this longstanding tradition," said Lucas Myers, co-founder and director of operations of SoPo Seafood, a new raw bar and market in South Portland that's also new to Maine Restaurant Week. 

The eatery is among more than 50 participants in this year's edition of the annual event, which runs from March 1-12. All are peddling dishes and menus at special prices during that time, offering a combination of takeout as well as onsite dining. At some eateries, that includes the outdoors.

"We've tried again this year to make MRW as flexible as possible so it doesn't put a strain on the restaurants, and have opened it up to specials, pairings, prix fixe menus and special pricing offers, too," said Gillian Britt, co-creator of the annual event with her husband Jim Britt. "Customers are as eager as ever, checking out the menus and making plans."

Originally intended as a way to get Maine restaurants and their suppliers through the slow winter season, Maine Restaurant Week debuted in 2009 and has taken on extra meaning as an industry pummeled by the pandemic struggles to get back on firm footing.

In its state-of-the-industry report released last month, the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association painted a mixed picture for 2022.

The report found that while the industry is projected to grow by 400,000 jobs nationwide and reach $898 billion in sales, supply challenges will likely continue.

In addition, more than half of restaurant operators polled by the researchers said it would be a year or more before business conditions return to normal, with food, labor and occupancy costs expected to stay high and continue to hurt profit margins in 2022.

"The restaurant and foodservice industry has adapted and is carrying on with absolute resilience, so we're optimistic about the path toward recovery in the coming year," said Marvin Irby, interim president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, at the time the report was released. 'We still have work to do to ensure that those operators struggling the most can survive."

Meanwhile in the Pine Tree State, restaurant owners including Krista Cole of Sur Lie in Portland and Yarmouth-based Gather, which she recently acquired, expect a busy Maine Restaurant Week.

"For Sur Lie, restaurant week has always been a fantastic way to showcase a fun, creative menu to not only our regulars but to also invite others to join us who haven't before," she told Mainebiz. "We hope they'll love it as much as we do and keep coming back."

She also said that while Sur Lie would usually offer a Sunday dinner service during Maine Restaurant week, staffing prevents that. Nevertheless, she said that staffing is fine and that the restaurant is able to keep its regular business hours.

While Sur Lie is a regular participant, SoPo Seafood is new this year in what Myers likens to a rite of passage. He also said the event is a way to connect to the restaurant community.

Lucas Myers behind the fish counter at SoPo Seafood. Display shows different kinds of fish and shellfish.
Photo / Tim Greenway
Lucas Myers is co-founder and operations director of SoPo Seafood, a seafood market and raw bar at 171 Ocean St. in South Portland.

"It feels good to work together with the other participating restaurants to offer Maine’s dining public a week to look forward to in March and, just as exciting, Maine Restaurant Week connects us to new customers who may not yet have heard about us and we think our restaurant week offerings will insure their return," he said.

Looking further ahead, he said that as summer approaches SoPo Seafood will have some staff turnover amid expected customer demand.  

"With this in mind," he said. "we are seeking to hire for at least four more positions by the end of this month."

Find out more about this year's Maine Restaurant Week lineup and events here. While greater Portland continues to be well-represented, this year's lineup includes participants in places such as Lewiston, Leeds, Hallowell and Kennebunk.

Also planned is a related event, CRAVE, featuring coffee-infused creations at participating eateries and retailers. That sub-event is a twist on a former ticketed competition that used to take place inside the Coffee By Design roastery. For CRAVE this year, Coffee By Design will be brewing chocolate-covered blueberry lattes and strawberry shortcake lattes.

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF