Local Eats Madison County Restaurant Gift Card Matching Program has injected $765,000 into local restaurants rebounding from COVID-19 restrictions, county officials said.
Madison County did two rounds of the program. The first round took place in June 2021 and the second started in October 2021.
The program allowed a customer to double their gift card purchase – so if, through the county’s online portal, they paid $50 for a participating restaurant’s gift card, the county would match the purchase, giving the customer $100 to spend.
After two rounds of matching gift cards, Madison County paid restaurants $382,500 and customers purchased an additional $382,500 worth of gift cards. The money Madison County used was part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
“I think anything we could do to help restaurants come back has been a big help,” Chairman John Becker said. “It was a very successful program. We sold out within days, sometimes that day for some restaurants.
Forty-three restaurants participated in the first round and 55 participated in the second round.
“Anyone could participate if they wanted to. We opened it up to every restaurant in the county,” Becker said.
Jennifer Di Giorgio, owner of HipStir Café in Oneida, participated in the program. She says her restaurant has benefited greatly from the Local Eats program.
“I felt so good because we were rewarding people who had been so loyal and supportive,” Di Giorgio said.
Di Giorgio said they had done well during the pandemic, but thanked the community for their support.
“We’ve done some fantastic things [during the pandemic] because we are in a small community that wanted to make sure we were always there,” said Di Giorgio.
The Toast in Cazenovia also participated in Madison County Local Eats.
Tonya Duffy, owner of The Toast, said she had great success with the program but only participated in the first round due to staffing issues.
“I think it helped attract customers and show them that we are still thriving and moving forward. Everyone I spoke to who attended said the same thing,” Duffy said.
Becker said there are no plans at this time to make a third round of the program.
“We are focused on other ways to support our local restaurants, farms and businesses,” Becker said. “That’s why we’ve revamped Buy Madison County. We’ll continue to grow this brand, helping our farms, restaurants and businesses build connections and grow sales.”
Di Giorgio said she was grateful for the county’s support during this program and the pandemic as a whole.
“Madison County is amazing, really. It sets the standard for other counties,” Di Giorgio said.