The North Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) has launched a new effort to define and strengthen culinary tourism for the city called “Setting the Table” which will optimize the local food ecosystem as a key driver for the city’s brand.
2021 was a year of growth, learning and relationship-building. Here are some highlights from our first year of “Setting the Table”.
- More than 125 meetings with restaurants, food trucks, farmers markets, North Little Rock School District employees, brewers, local and state officials, the University of Arkansas Co-op Extension Office and so many more.
- Improved relationships with food trucks and regularly activate them for events, such as the Argenta Vibe Music Series at Argenta Plaza.
- We have also been working with the North Little Rock city clerks’ office, North Little Rock fire marshal’s office, and North Little Rock Health Department to establish a North Little Rock Food Truck Coalition to streamline application and approval processes.
- In January, we hosted the second annual North Little Rock Restaurant Week in partnership with North Little Rock Economic Development and saw:
- an increase of over 600% in community participation
- 9% more engagement from the restaurants
- 135% increase in total sales reported
- One of the biggest struggles in our industry is workforce. In 2021, we began making progress to develop a pathway from Pre-K to post-grad to bolster North Little Rock’s hospitality and tourism workforce.
- Pre k – grade 8: teach about nutrition and encourage involvement in programs like North Little Rock Community Gardens or St. Joseph Center of Arkansas
- High school: engage students in the North Little Rock School District’s hospitality track through its Center of Excellence.
- Post-grads: educate about programs like the culinary school at Pulaski Technical College, Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub’s Skills to Launch, hospitality management programs at traditional universities. There is even a program called Food Jobs that allows adults who are starting over to learn the technical skills to work in a kitchen.
- This path leads to multitude of different opportunities: a stronger workforce, management, entrepreneurs, community involvement and an overall higher quality of life. As we feed into the youth of today, our hopes are that they want to stay and feed into the next generations here in North Little Rock.
- To raise awareness about the “Setting the Table Initiative,” the North Little Rock CVB marketing team implemented regular marketing and public relations efforts, reaching an estimated 3.85 million people in 2021. Stories in publications such as Arkansas Business, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Arkansas Money & Politics have informed the public about the initiative and social media posts, blog posts and e-newsletters have strategically highlighted specific North Little Rock restaurants.
“At its heart, the mission of Setting the Table is to position North Little Rock as a regional and national culinary tourism destination,” said Karen Trevino, President & CEO of North Little Rock CVB. “Our goal is to amplify current culinary assets in North Little Rock, find the undiscovered gems and identify opportunities for new or improved culinary experiences.”
We recognize that compelling tourism destinations are foremost great places to live, and our efforts will:
- respect and celebrate local cultural assets and traditions,
- strengthen a sense of community,
- support a shared civic value of aesthetics of the culinary world
- provide a platform for local opportunity
In the coming months, North Little Rock CVB and the advisory committee will reach out to the local community and organize task forces to address all aspects of North Little Rock’s food ecosystem, including production, distribution, activation and engagement, policy and management, and brand and story. Updates will be posted on this page as they become available.
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