Arnold’s Meats asks customers to aid in ‘Restaurant Rescue’; promotion touts wholesale customers hurt by COVID

Arnold’s Meats knows its wholesale customers — restaurants that order meat for their customer’s plates — are hurting, and it wants to help out with a “Restaurant Rescue.” Starting this week, and probably for all of 2021, Arnold’s is selling gift certificates from its restaurant customers at its markets on Grattan Street in Chicopee and Shaker Road in East Longmeadow. Customers who buy a gift certificate — $50 for high-end places and probably less for cheaper eateries — will get 10% off their Arnold’s purchase on that shopping trip.

Jeff Katz, vice president of Arnold’s, said the stores will showcase a restaurant of the week in their print advertisements — Thursdays in The Republican’s Food & Dining section — and rewrite the jingle in its radio ads each week to mention the restaurant. The company will promote the restaurants on social media as well.

“It’s a goodwill, give back to the restaurants that have been good to us over the years,” he said. “We have a wholesale business. You see the trucks going around.” His father, company President Larry Katz, came up with the idea.

“Anybody who orders from us, we are going to give it right back to you,” Jeff Katz said. “You get a free week of advertising, on us, as a goodwill gesture.” Fewer restaurant customers have been ordering wholesale meat, and those that have been ordering are not ordering as much or as often.

“The phones don’t ring for orders during the day,” Katz said. “We’ve seen a lot of our restaurants close. A lot of them have been operating at 20 to 60% capacity. Some are just done and are selling the place. The trucks are not loaded as they were last year at this time.”

The first restaurant featured is FitzWilly’s in Northampton.

“It’s a great idea,” said Fred Gohr, co-owner of FitzWilly’s. “I’ve known Larry for a long time and I’ve been doing business with him for 40 years.”

FitzWilly’s had a strong summer with outdoor dining, something the city encouraged by blocking off parking spaces so restaurants could put out tables. But it’s cold now and business is off.

The restaurant has room for 280 people under normal circumstances. So 25% of capacity is still a pretty good crowd. But Gohr said customers’ concerns about COVID-19 and reluctance to go out in public make it hard to do business.

“Takeout has been a bigger part of our business lately,” he said. “That’s for sure.”

Also in Northampton, Joe’s Pizza will be featured in an upcoming week.

“We pride ourselves at having a good local relationship,” said owner Meaghan Sullivan. “I think exposure at any level is good.”

Also on deck for Arnold’s promotions is the Steaming Tender in Palmer.

“We do use Arnold’s as one of our suppliers,” said owner Robin Lamothe. “We believe in their quality. It’ll help them as well. We’re here to help each other out.”

Also scheduled to be featured in coming weeks are Tandem Bagel Co., with locations in Easthampton, Hadley and Northampton; Yarde Tavern in South Hadley and Enfield, Connecticut; Food 101 in South Hadley; Center Square Grill in East Longmeadow; Eastside Grill in Northampton; and Sturbridge Porterhouse in Sturbridge.

Katz said one of the benefits of the promotion is it helps introduce customers who shop at Arnold’s in East Longmeadow or Chicopee to restaurants outside those two communities. And it helps introduce restaurant customers in those other communities to Arnold’s.

And he said the 10% discount can add up. Some Arnold’s customers shop every other week for a big, hungry family. Sometimes people come to the register with $400 worth of food.