DAYTON, Ky. — It may not seem like much, but Dayton, Kentucky hopes that putting $5 in residents’ pockets could revitalize the local restaurant economy -- and that a few bucks will go a long way.
A federal COVID check, it is not, but the river city is using some of its CARES Act funding with the goal of driving more people into restaurants along its main drag.
The concept is simple -- every home in Dayton will receive a $5 voucher from the “Dayton Dining Dollars Program” to use at any of the city's restaurants, like Galactic Fried Chicken on Sixth Avenue.
Owner Shane Coffey puts the goal more succinctly: "Get more people in here, and realize what they're missing."
Coffey opened the brick and mortar location -- on a wing and a prayer -- on March 5, 2020.
"We decided to invest in our own neighborhood,” owner Shane Coffey said. “Dayton is the right time, and the right place. It's been amazing so far."
Just two weeks later, a worldwide pandemic temporarily shut down restaurants and kept neighbors inside. Galactic Fried Chicken survived supply shortages and adjusted to doing more take-out orders, but even months later, the challenge of bringing customers in remains.
"Anything to get people going back out,” Coffey said. “Changing the habits of people. Restaurants, we love having the takeout, using the Uber Eats and the DoorDashes of the world, but we just really want to have people back into our places. This will be a good way to do that."
Mayor Ben Baker calls mom and pop shops “the heart” of Dayton, and one that could use a little help right now.
“You don't see any massive chains here, you don't see any drive-thru restaurants,” Baker said. “You see mom and pops that want to make this their business, and their life. It's important to me to make sure they can continue with their life.”
The $15,000 stimulus plan, called the “Dayton Dining Dollars Program,” isn’t the only thing the city has done with its CARES Act money. Some of the $126,000 it received from the government went to local business grants as well.
Baker is hopeful about 25% of all postcard coupons they send will be used.
“Five dollars pays for a bit of a meal here,” he said. “That’s going to bring more than $5 for each of the restaurants. More importantly, it’ll bring customers in here on a repeat basis. That’s our overall hope: to welcome people to the restaurants they may not have known exist yet, or just haven’t had a chance to try out. A five dollar coupon is a great way to do that.”
Coffey agrees, saying $5 is the “perfect price point” and gives customers about an 80% discount on a meal at Galactic Fried Chicken. After all, these businesses survive one happy customer at a time.
"We're actually here,” he said. “We can see people face to face that create those relationships that'll last in this community and into future stores."