North Little Rock Looks to Increase Efforts in Making the Area a Local Food Destination

For several years now North Little Rock has been rapidly increasing their efforts to focus on culinary tourism as a main part of their overall marketing plan, particularly in the Argenta district. Their new marketing direction announced today looks to double down on the effort by putting locally operated businesses, and by virtue unique food experiences, front and center.

The “Setting the Table” initiative will optimize the local food ecosystem as a key driver for the city’s brand according to a press release. They plan to work to promote their local spots and highlight experiences that can be had.

It is a direction that has helped other areas such as Northwest Arkansas boom with culinary based tourism and has had a knock on impact to related tourism such as the visual and performing arts. In fact they are partnering with our friends over at the Velocity Group who are directly responsible for the culinary arts success in NWA.

This is another in a long line of efforts including the overall transformation of downtown Argenta that North Little Rock as a city has worked on for years and judging by the success immediately across the river, it seems to be working.

The full release is below with more information on the initiative.
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The North Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) announced today 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.

“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.”

“Setting the Table” is spearheaded by North Little Rock CVB and overseen by an advisory committee consisting of the City of North Little RockNorth Little Rock Economic Development, the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and Argenta Downtown Council (ADC). North Little Rock CVB is working with Velocity Group to assist with developing the project framework.

“As North Little Rock grows, opportunities for unique and memorable culinary experiences should as well,” said North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick. “Our city is working with our educational partners to educate and develop a vast and competent workforce for new and existing businesses. North Little Rock will be more attractive as a place to work if we develop and promote our opportunities to eat and play.”

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.

“Cities that have strong culinary cultures don’t just happen by accident,” said John Owens, President & CEO of the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a deliberate part of placemaking where the city and the community embrace the needs of the foodservice community.”

Argenta Downtown Council (ADC), which has been a culinary leader in North Little Rock, will be actively involved to align its culinary events and strategies with the city initiative. ADC had also previously worked with Velocity Group on an overall strategy for Argenta.

“In 2019, we committed to providing a big-vision culinary strategy that integrates and aligns Argenta Farmers Market, restaurant recruitment, food truck placement and event production,” said Chris Kent, ADC Executive Director. “COVID forced us all to pivot and reimagine our strategy, and we see our involvement in ‘Setting the Table’ as a natural progression.”

Before the launch of the initiative, all four entities had been working together to promote and improve North Little Rock’s culinary scene. In June 2020, the North Little Rock CVB, City of North Little Rock and ADC created the Argenta Outdoor Dining District to allow downtown restaurants to serve customers outside. Inspired by the success of Flyway Brewing’s “Tent City”, the entities worked together with downtown restaurant staff to implement and promote a successful outdoor tented dining area on Main Street.In January 2021, the North Little Rock CVB, the City of North Little Rock, North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and North Little Rock Economic Development revamped North Little Rock Restaurant Week, promoting “dining local” by awarding points for restaurant receipts, social check-ins at restaurants and restaurant gift card purchases. The contest received 135 entries supporting 57 different North Little Rock restaurants and resulted in 6.2 million impressions for North Little Rock restaurants.

Updates about North Little Rock’s “Setting the Table” Culinary Initiative will be available at https://northlittlerock.org/north-little-rock-setting-the-table-culinary-initiative/.

Greg Henderson
Author: Greg Henderson

Owner/Publisher - Rock City Eats, Rock City Life, Rock City Times

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