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BJ's Boosts Restaurants and Profile with Tasting Events

While one of the refrains of the recession is about the opportunity food retailers have to take sales away from restaurants, the fact of the matter is warehouse clubs make good money selling products to eateries, so BJ's is stepping up to the plate for foodservice.

And itself. The company is running a series of events from New Hampshire to Florida in conjunction with local restaurants, one that it is opening up to both members and nonmembers, and, thus, finding a new way to involved local communities in its operations.

In one example of the initiative, a BJ's club in Cape Coral, Fla., is hosting a Taste of the Town promotion that will showcase local restaurants on Aug. 22. The event is being held in tandem with a like event to run at a nearby Fort Meyers BJ's location.

At Cape Coral, 32 restaurants are slated to participate, providing attendees with sample signature dishes and helping to establish a connection between consumers, restaurants and the club.

BJ's emphasis on food has made it a favorite of many restaurant operators, in part because it's particularly willing to carry items that suit local traditions and ethnic communities. It event tried out a restaurant supply concept that it subsequently abandoned as a distraction to a club business that already had the capability of supplying foodservice operators. Typically, warehouse clubs look for products in key categories such as paper goods and cleaning supplies that can suit foodservice and consumer needs simultaneously. While mom and pop restaurants and small local chains may do the larger proportion of their shopping at a club, even big operators who schedule supply deliveries may drop into one such warehouse or another for items that run low. The Cape Coral tasting will include single-unit and chain restaurants.

BJ's spokeswoman Shauna Gallagher noted that the "Taste of the Town events give local restaurants great exposure as well as providing a fun, interactive and appetizing shopping experience for members and non members to enjoy."

To that end, BJ's offers a range of family-style activities including face painting and craft instruction in addition to all the food. BJ's held its first Taste of the Town event of the year at its Merritt Island, Fla., club in June. In addition to Cape Coral and Fort Meyers, BJ's will host restaurant tastings on Aug. 22 at its Manahawkin, N.J. and Hooksett, N.H. locations. Additional tasting events will run in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, Victor, N.Y., Allentown, Pa., and Hampton, Va., on Aug. 29.