Local Eats Madison County's restaurant gift card matching program pumped $765,000 into local restaurants rebounding after COVID-19 restrictions, county officials said.
Madison County did two rounds of the program. The first round ran 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 toward a participating restaurant’s gift card, the county matched the purchase, giving the customer $100 to spend.
After two rounds of gift card matching, Madison County paid restaurants $382,500, and customers bought another $382,500 worth of gift cards. The money used by Madison County was part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
“I think anything that we could do to help restaurants come back was a big help,” said Chairman John Becker. “It was a wildly successful program. We sold out within days, sometimes that day for some of the restaurants.”
Forty-three restaurants participated in the first round and 55 participated in the second round.
“Everyone could participate if they wanted to. We opened it up to every restaurant in the county,” said Becker.
Jennifer Di Giorgio, owner of HipStir Café in Oneida, participated in the program. She says her restaurant benefited greatly from the Local Eats program.
“I felt so good about it, because we were rewarding people that had been so loyal and supportive,” said Di Giorgio.
Di Giorgio said they did well during the pandemic but credited the community for their support.
“We did fantastic [during the pandemic] because we're in a small community that wanted to make sure that we were still here,” said Di Giorgio.
The Toast in Cazenovia also participated in Madison County’s Local Eats.
Tonya Duffy, owner of The Toast, said they had great success with the program, but only participated in the first round due to staffing issues.
“I think it helped bring customers in and show them we're still thriving and moving along. Anybody that I talked to that actually participated said the same thing,” said Duffy.
Becker said there are no plans as of now to do a third round of the program.
“We are focusing on other ways to support our restaurants, farms and local businesses,” said Becker. “This is why we revamped Buy Madison County. We will continue to grow that brand, help our farms, restaurants and businesses make connections and grow sales.”
Di Giorgio said she was grateful for the support from the county during this program, and the pandemic as a whole.
“Madison County is incredible, really. It sets the standard for other counties,” said Di Giorgio.