‘Tastiest’ title would bring economic benefits

Feb. 22, 2013 @ 06:26 PM

As many of you are aware, Durham was named by Southern Living magazine as one of the “Top Ten Tastiest Towns in the South.” In their May issue they will name the winner—the South’s Tastiest Town—deemed by the community earning the most votes over a two-month period.

The Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB), Durham’s official marketing agency, has been working diligently to get out the vote to secure this title for Durham.  Local restaurants have been including flyers with their checks urging patrons to vote, the story has been covered on several television stations and through social media outlets. 

Durhamites even joined in the fun of creating our own version of the Harlem Shake to encourage voting.  (Haven’t heard of the Harlem Shake?  Go online to YouTube and type “Durham Harlem Shake” in the search box.)  As of Friday morning, well over 5,000 people have viewed the video.

Titles like this aren’t just about winning “bragging rights.”  They actually have economic value through increased media coverage, which fuels increased visitation and results in higher restaurant sales.  

Another benefit?  With increased visitation and restaurant sales, Durham also reaps additional sales tax revenue for local government, something we can all be happy about.   

Earning media coverage is an ongoing tactic that DCVB uses to raise awareness about Durham and attract visitors.  Our staff regularly pitches stories about food and many other aspects of Durham to publications like The New York Times, Southern Living, Cooking Light, The Huffington Post and many others. 

Winning this accolade will earn Durham a considerable write-up in the May issue of Southern Living, with a circulation of over 2.8 million.  The bulk of that readership falls within an important target market from which Durham works to attract visitors.  

One important aspect to realize is that Durham really IS one of top “foodie” destination, so this isn’t an attempt to get recognition for something that isn’t part of the brand Durham delivers. 

If you’ve lived here for more than a few weeks, you’ve undoubtedly been exposed to some of the highly celebrated chefs and restaurants offering cuisine from around the world.  The diversity of Durham has created a nexus for authentic culinary expression that is nearly unequaled in North Carolina.  In fact, more than 50 Durham restaurants have been written up in national and regional media for their outstanding work.  

Of course, I realize that not everyone is happy about the push for national media attention.  As I read on one of the many active listservs in Durham earlier this week, some people want to keep it a secret for fear that as more people discover Durham it will get overdeveloped and lose its coolness. 

But others note that drawing visitors and new residents brings new business.  And that’s not going to necessarily be a bad thing. One commenter even noted, “More folks -- the right ones -- will keep fueling the Food Revolution in Durham, with appetite, money and ideas.”

So, as we near the end of the contest (11:59 p.m. on Thursday, February 28th) you have a few more opportunities to get your vote in.  You can vote every day from each email address (not just one per household).

Southern Living has removed the leader board from their website, so we won’t know where we are in the contest until it’s announced in another seven weeks or so.  The main competition appears to be Memphis, a community three times the size of Durham.  That Durham is even in the running against such a large city is pretty impressive.

In closing, let me say that Durham deserves this title. The food here IS that good, and the people who work so hard in the food business here DO deserve to have this recognition. 

So at the risk of repeating myself for the umpteenth time this month, please go to bit.ly/VoteDurham and vote! 

Shelly Green is president and CEO of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau.