Restaurant Revival

 Restaurant Revival

Restaurant Raiders brings the hustle and bustle back to Miami Valley restaurants

Two years ago, a restaurant owner called Amy Zahora because his lunch business was dragging, and he needed help.

Zahora, director of the Miami Valley Restaurant Association, asked him to give her his best deal and she’d see how many people she could get in. He was game, and Zahora typed out a quick message online: “Let’s raid this joint.”

The day arrived, and along with it, pouring rain. At 11 a.m., the restaurant was empty. But by the end of lunch, the restaurant buzzed and the patrons wanted to know when they could raid another restaurant. When word spread among local restaurateurs, they wanted in, and Restaurant Raiders of the Miami Valley was born.

It’s grown quickly, with many of the restaurants drawing lunch and happy hour crowds of 100 or more during Raider events. Zahora launched the concept in Cincinnati, and she plans to lease the idea to other restaurant associations. She’s also developing a new website that will take the concept into the daily deal arena and launching events under the Restaurant Raiders banner, such as Bacon Fest held at Fraze Pavilion in August.

Zahora’s Restaurant Raider's following through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and now text message alerts, brings in the crowds. While many come for business networking, patrons also include college students, retirees and families.

Zahora also orchestrates giveaways of tickets and goodies from local businesses to keep the raids lively. She and her crew keep watch for newcomers and welcome them. “We try to make everyone feel comfortable,” she says.

On another rainy day in June, the Raiders infiltrated Crazy Mango, a relatively new restaurant at The Greene. As the crowd streamed in, co-owner Judy Silva smiled. “The place would be much quieter on any other rainy weekday evening,” she says.

Many in the group had never been to Crazy Mango, and some didn’t know it existed. Now, thanks to Zahora, she had them captive. “If they can see it, smell it and taste it, it’s some of the best advertising,” says Silva.

Georgianna Parish sampled the appetizers at Crazy Mango and has been on seven raids. An attorney and mother, Parish says she doesn’t go out often, but she enjoys these events. “I think people are starting to care about mom and pop restaurants instead of chains,” says Parish. “I think this is a great city for entrepreneurship.” Parish is among the many who return raid after raid, and the restaurants reap the benefits.

“I’ve always had a passion to help them,” Zahora says. “It makes me really happy because the owners are happy.”

For information on future events, follow Restaurant Raiders on Facebook and @RestRaidersofMV on Twitter.