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Dishcrawl grows at a rapid pace, arrives locally

Rochester Business Journal
July 5, 2013

On Tuesday, Rochester is slated to get a taste of the big-city dining concept known as Dishcrawl.
Founded in 2010 by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tracy Lee, Dishcrawl is similar to a bar crawl but with local restaurants. The Rochester Dishcrawl is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and take place at four spots on Park Avenue.
Tickets to the Dishcrawl are $45, avail-able online at, and include meals, no drinks, at each of the four restaurants.
Only one of the four participating restaurants, Roam Café, has been revealed. Diners will not even know where they are meeting on Park Avenue until 48 hours prior to the event.
Local Dishcrawl ambassador Nicole Benziger said the mysterious nature of the event is designed to add a sense of adventure.
"The whole concept behind it is for it to be a culinary experience," Benziger said. "It's an adventure to take, on your own. We want people to have an experience they've never had before."
Benziger, a Canandaigua native, learned of Dishcrawl during an internship in California last year. Once she returned to the Rochester area, she signed on as an ambassador for Dishcrawl, a privately held firm in San Jose, Calif.
The ambassadors' job is to set up and manage the events in their hometowns. Benziger said there was a previous Dishcrawl ambassador in Rochester, but an event never took place.
She took over Rochester Dishcrawl's social media accounts and began planning. The choice of location came down to Park Avenue versus the South Wedge, she said.
"I picked Park Ave. because the area has a built-in audience with the Park Ave. fest being there," Benziger said."
Rochester Dishcrawl is aiming to sell 25 tickets, she said. As of midweek, there were seven left. If Rochester's version of Dishcrawl mirrors the events held in previous cities, it could be a huge hit.
Dishcrawls have been established in more than 125 cities in the United States and Canada, the company states. It launched on the West Coast but quickly spread to places such as New York City, Toronto, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
It then expanded south to cities such as New Orleans, Birmingham, Memphis and Marietta, Ga., where it really exploded. Benziger said most of the Dishcrawls in the South sell out to as many as 40 to 50 participants within 10 days of tickets going on sale.
The concept has continued to grow. When a May event in Greenwich, Conn., sold out in less than four days, organizers decided to add a second event the next night, which also sold out. The same happened for a May Dishcrawl in Stamford, Conn.
One of the things that entices diners, Benziger said, is that all of the restaurants are local. Chefs or owners at the establishments often create special dishes for the night as well.
For the restaurants, participation seems like a no-brainer. Benziger said Dishcrawl does not charge the restaurants to participate and offers them at least a half-dozen diners on a weekday night when most dining spots are not busy.
"It's great exposure for us," said Drew Nye, owner of Roam Café at 262 Park Ave. "A lot of the restaurants on Park Avenue have been open for a long time compared to us. This gives people a chance to discover us and allows us to showcase the great dining experience we offer."
Benziger said the main challenge in marketing Dishcrawl in Rochester has been residents' unfamiliarity with the concept. So far, Dishcrawl's main marketing tools have been its Twitter and Facebook pages, where Benziger drops hints about the dining spots locations.
Still, the event appears to be building momentum. Local blogger and self-described food fan Tim Belknap, who has more than 5,000 Twitter followers, has been promoting the event on social media  and offering a $5 discount on his blog,
Benziger said WHEC-TV 10 plans to interview Nye and reveal the name of a second restaurant on Monday.
If the event is a hit, she said, she would like to do a Dishcrawl once a month and is looking at the South Wedge and Pittsford as possible locations.
Syracuse also has a Dishcrawl ambassador who is hoping to throw an event there this summer, she said. The company has been advertising on job websites for an ambassador in Buffalo as well.


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