Providence Restaurant Week will look a bit different this year: by teaming up with an up-and-coming Warwick delivery business, this year’s event will help Rhode Islanders “Stay Local, Eat Well.”
WhatsGood is a Warwick-based company that provides delivery of locally grown and produced food from farms across the state, but they have expanded to restaurant delivery as well. From Aug. 16 through Sept. 12, WhatsGood will deliver pre-packaged specials from select restaurants across the state, with options ranging from tavern fare by Iron Works in Warwick to Indian cuisine from Chaska in Cranston. Customers can download the WhatsGood app to order.
Restaurants during Providence Restaurant Week typically provide a prix fixe three-course meal, but this year, restaurants will offer breakfast, lunch, dinner and/or “Chef’s Choice” family-style specials through WhatsGood. These specials are designed to serve two people and are expected to cost between $45 and $65. Dine-in options will also be available at select restaurants, and costs vary based on meal and restaurant. According to Kristen Adamo, president of the Providence-Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau (PWCVB), about 50 restaurants are participating in this year’s event as of Aug. 11, but she expects more to register before the event begins.
Adamo said that social distancing has harmed local businesses’ profits, but has also limited Rhode Island residents’ opportunities to travel. By having a delivery option for this year’s event, more people can experience local food while quarantining.
“What I’m really looking forward to is Rhode Islanders discovering their own state,” Adamo said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for people who don’t want to, in Rhode Island fashion, drive twenty minutes away. They can get it delivered. Even if you live in Newport but you always wanted to try Gracie’s [in Providence], you can try food from around the state.”
On Aug. 6, WhatsGood held a press conference to announce the partnership.
“It's been amazing to really enable and empower small businesses in the state to thrive during this crisis, and to deal with a very, evolving need in their business models,” WhatsGood co-founder and CEO Matt Tortora said at the event. “The Restaurant Week is exciting to us to really enable more restaurants and chefs around the state to participate, to find a way to add additional revenue streams to their businesses, but at the same time also provide consumers a safe and convenient way to support and patron their restaurants and local chefs.”
Matt Tortora graduated from Johnston and Wales University after he and his wife and business partner, Erin Tortora, served in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear missile technician and supply corps officer, respectively. Tortera worked as a chef at Cafe Fresco and Jamestown Fish, where he realized it was difficult to find fresh, local ingredients as a chef. This inspired him to start WhatsGood, which has since expanded to both farmer’s market produce delivery and restaurant delivery.
Erin Tortora, WhatsGood co-founder and director of resources said that she, her husband, Matt Tortora, and fellow co-founder Will Araújo founded WhatsGood in 2014. Since then, the service has spread to different farmer’s market organizations across the country including the Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle and Boston areas.
“Both the restaurants and the farms can communicate directly with consumers through their marketplace,” Erin Tortora said. “So some of them take a lot of time to say thank you, thank you for your order and ask you to let them know what you're thinking. And so it's never intended to replace the farmers market because those are very important in our community, but what we're finding is there are other ways to connect with consumers outside of the physical borders of a farmers market which right now makes it really tough to shopping, and on a rainy day, people don't always want to go. So we're just trying to provide a consistent year round way for folks to reach their consumers.”
Customers pay vendors directly through the app, and according to Erin Tortora, WhatsGood takes as low as 5 percent of local businesses’ profits from the service. Erin Tortora said that this helps businesses expand their customer base and improve the local economy.
“I'm really proud that Warwick is a great location to grow a business, and an important part of Rhode Island's hospitality industry,” Rhode Island State Rep. Joseph Solomon Jr. said. “Warwick's central location and favorable business environment gives WhatsGood, as well as the numerous other companies that have decided to headquarter here, a strategic advantage.”