The dish on the Dish Mob

Dish MobWhat do you get when you cross Restaurant Week with a flash mob? A food fight would be a good guess (with enormous fun potential) but the correct answer is slightly more innovative.

Say hello to Dish Mob, a collaboration between Restaurant.com, a site that offers deals on dining, and Cash Mob, a national campaign to encourage support of locally-owned businesses. Cash Mobs have been organized in dozens of cities nationwide, aiming to push as many people as possible into the small shops located in that community.

Organizers are hosting five Dish Mobs — the dining version of Cash Mobs — across the country from Wednesday through March 1. The campaign hits Baltimore on Feb. 26 for a Dish Mob at Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, at 6526 Holabird Ave. in Baltimore, co-hosted by local blogger Maggie Miller of Family Frugal Fun.

Katie O’Connor, events coordinator at Jimmy’s, said Miller and several other bloggers are scheduled to arrive around 10:30 a.m. to sample several appetizers: crab balls, coconut shrimp, stuffed mushroom caps and mozzarella sticks.
The bloggers won’t be charged an event fee, but this isn’t a free lunch: O’Connor said they will pay for their eats and drinks, as will any other patrons who stop in.

From 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. is the actual “Dish Mob” —  a cute way of designating the hour-long period when organizers hope lots of people will show up to “break the chain” of eating at chain restaurants.

Jimmy’s owner Tony Minadakis said he’s not sure what to expect from the event. If it boosts business, that’s great, he said, even though Jimmy’s, which has been around for more than 35 years, already has a good following among locals.

“The locals know that we’re here to stay and that we have a good product,” he said. “But anytime you can grab people that haven’t heard about your restaurant or were curious, it’s always a positive.”

The other Dish Mobs are being held at independently owned restaurants in: Orlando; Salt Lake City Dallas,; and Raleigh, N.C.

In each of those communities, Restaurant.com — an Illinois-based company that connects diners to restaurants through gift certificates and other promotions — will partner with a local organization to encourage consumers to patronize locally-owned eateries.

In Maryland, Restaurant.com is working with Buy Local, Buy Maryland — a customer savings club that features deals from independently owned businesses. Through the program, consumers can use their member cards to access exclusive savings and discounts at participating businesses throughout the state.

Organizers said they don’t know how large a turnout to expect for the Dish Mob. Buy Local, Buy Maryland has helped with promotional efforts, they said, and they’ve tried to spread the word through social media.

Minadakis said the “buy local” movement is particularly appropriate for restaurants because of the immense competition from corporate chains.

“You see more and more businesses falling to corporate,” he said. “If the local people can support their local businesses, then that won’t happen. So [this movement] is definitely huge.”

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