Everyone loves to go out to eat, and in Naples the restaurant choices seem endless.
But do you stop to think where those dining dollars end up, after you pay for your meal?
Naples Originals members, a group of 35 independent restaurants, want you to keep eating out, but they want you to spend those dollars at locally owned and operated restaurants.
To point people in the right direction and to raise money for their fledgling organization, the group will auction off more than $22,000 of gift certificates to locally owned and operated restaurants at a 30 percent discount.
That means a $50 gift certificate will cost $35, and a $25 certificate will cost $17.50.
The auction will begin in the morning on Tuesday, May 15, at www.NaplesOriginals.com, the organization’s Web site, which includes menus and information about participating restaurants.
"We want people to know that independent restaurants are different, and to teach them about the important role we play in the local economy," said Lisa Boet, Naples Originals president and co-owner of Bamboo Café.
When you step into Sunburst Café, a Naples Originals member, on Pine Ridge Road, a sign reads "Friends don’t let Friends Drink Starbucks."
In the nine years since Theresa and Jerome Tocio opened the cafe, "competition has gotten fierce," Theresa Tocio said.
They started as a coffee shop and muffin store, but as more and more companies like Starbucks came into town they expanded to breakfast, lunch and catering to remain competitive. She and Jerome, who customers know as the Muffin Man because he makes the cafe’s muffins, have to work extra hard to bring people through their door, Tocio said.
Getting the word out through advertising is difficult for small independents because it is expensive, she said. Tocio hopes Naples Originals will increase awareness about locally owned and operated restaurants.
Once they step in, Tocio is confident that their food and customer service will keep them coming back.
"We try to make everybody who comes in feel like they’re coming into our home," Tocio said.
Sunburst and 34 other Naples restaurants each will put up $650 of gift certificates for the auction. All the proceeds will go to the organization for marketing, events and other activities.
The restaurants participating in the Naples Originals auction include:
• Alexander’s, Bamboo Café, Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar, Bistro 821, Bleu Provence, Brambles Tea Room
• Caffe dell’Amore, Chops City Grill, The Dock at Crayton Cove, EVOO Market & Bistro, Gourmet Catering & Take Out
• Greek Gourmet, Grouper ‘n’ Chips, Hogs in the Pound, The Island Pub, KJ’s Tropical Palm Café, Mangrove Café
• Maxwell’s on the Bay, Naples Tomato, Noodles Italian Café & Sushi, Old Naples Pub, Pazzo Italian Café, Pelican Larry’s (all three locations)
• Randy’s Fishmarket Restaurant, The Real Macaw, Ridgway Bar & Grill, Riverwalk at Tin City, Stoney’s Steakhouse
• Sunburst Café, Swan River Seafoods, The Tropical Reef, The Village Pub, Yabba Island Grill