When Annie Stookesberry created the Instagram account 5280_eats nearly three years ago, she saw it as nothing more than a creative outlet for her interest in Denver's restaurants. "I found myself posting photos of food on my personal Instagram account and thought, I should do this anonymously," she says. "I love the food scene here. It’s growing quickly, but you can still keep up. It's not like New York or San Francisco."
Over the next several months, Stookesberry's observations on the dining scene built a large base of hungry fans; 5280_eats has nearly 25,000 followers today. But she often heard that many followers still needed extra motivation to get out and explore the restaurants she was capturing in photos. "People will often tell me 'I've been meaning to go there or it's on my list, but they have a hard time leaving their dining routine,'" she explains.
She started exploring restaurant promotion programs that offer discounts, like the Dining Out Passbook, and quickly realized there was room in the market for a different kind of value option. "With a booklet, the quality of restaurant varies, and there's no real incentive to go at a certain time because the coupons have a six-month or year-long window," she explains. "It's hands-off. And from the restaurant’s perspective, people who have the books often order their free entree and nothing else and leave and never come back."
Stookesberry really wanted to give people incentive to visit during a short window, and to have an experience that might convert them into a regular at her favorite spots. So she came up with Feast Locally, which she calls a small-batch dining club. When you join Feast Locally for $100, you're issued a titanium membership card that's good for six months. Each month, that card entitles you to deals at a crop of restaurants that Stookesberry has vetted — usually a 15 to 20 percent discount on your entire bill. Present the card with your check at your selected restaurant to claim the deal; there's no limit on the number of times you use the card at any given restaurant, as long as you're within the month that restaurant is featured.
Early participants include Hearth & Dram, Bigsby’s Folly, Concourse Restaurant Moderne, Annette, Cattivella, Bar Dough and Bones; in September, four or five of those will offer cardholders 20 percent off their total check. Do the math and you'll see that the $100 quickly pays for itself.
Stookesberry is also hoping to sign on a variety of experiences in addition to restaurant deals; she cites wine tastings and discounted tickets to popular upcoming food events as examples. "The goal is to try to cultivate people who want new experiences but don’t know where to start or need a little extra incentive to go," she explains.
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The restaurants chosen will be mostly newer spots — "less than two years old," she explains — because she hopes to also give those places a boost after the initial opening buzz dies down. There will be exceptions, though, like Bones, because she's also interested in keeping Denver's best restaurants in circulation.
If you would like to partake, you have a limited window: You must sign up by September 1. After that, you'll have to wait until the next six-month card comes along. Go to feastlocally.com for more details and to snag your card.