Taste of Chicago attendance up — but will it make money?
SUN-TIMES STAFF July 14, 2013 11:40PM
August Rukli, 35, takes a bite of a rabbit corndog from Hearty Restaurant at the 33rd annual Taste of Chicago on Wednesday. File Photo. | Alex Wroblewski~Sun-Times
Updated: July 15, 2013 12:11AM
Star of Siam served 100,000 pot stickers. Tutto Italiano dished out 57,500 toasted ravioli. Kasia’s Deli handed out 25,000 pierogi. And Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs sold 30,000 portions of rib tips.
On Saturday alone, Carbon sold an average of 25 tacos and tamales per minute.
Those were some of the final city estimates of the food served over the course of Taste of Chicago, as the five-day food fest burped to a close Sunday.
An estimated 1.5 million people attended the city’s annual pig-out festival, up from last years’s 1.2 million, according to city officials.
But whether that translates into the shrunken food fest finally breaking out of the red remains to be seen. Sales and revenue figures won’t be released until a final accounting is completed “at a later date,” according to a city news release.
And attendance alone might not be enough.
Last year’s shrunken, revamped and rescheduled Taste lost $1.3 million, $300,000 more than the year before — despite an increase in total attendance.
That prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel to demand another round of cost-cutting for this year’s event.
After 2011’s Taste lost $1 million, Emanuel cut last year’s event from 10 days to five and bumped it to mid-July. It had traditionally been held around July 4th.
The number of restaurants was reduced, “pop-up” eateries were allowed to participate for a day and celebrity chefs offered prepared three-course, sit-down meals for $40-a-person. Concert-goers were also required to pay for reserved seats at the Petrillo Music Shell for the first time last year.
The recurring losses have prompted Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) to call for City Council hearings on the future of the Taste of Chicago.
“It’s been a losing proposition. We’re in tough economic times,” Fioretti said in March. “Are we on the last legs? Is it time to abolish it? Is it time to re-configure what we’re doing? .. This is definitely the end of Taste of Chicago unless they can prove otherwise.”
Emanuel has seemed more open to stirring the pot than pulling the plug.
And his statement Sunday gave no indication he has lost his appetite for the fest.
“Anyone who visited this year’s Taste of Chicago enjoyed a family friendly, welcoming event, and also saw first-hand why our culinary reputation is renowned,” the mayor said. “The festival featured many longtime favorites while also showcasing the latest chapter in our culinary history, the Food Trucks.”