Magical Dining returns Aug. 26 through Oct. 3

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Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining, the popular annual restaurant promotion, returns this year, running from Aug. 26 through Oct. 3. During that time, participating restaurants will feature special three-course menus for a set price of $40.

Yep, even the cost of Magical Dining has gone up from last year’s $37; that’s an eight percent, so it’s roughly following inflation.

As in years past, Visit Orlando will donate one dollar from each Magical Dinner to a local charity (no inflational increase for them). This years beneficiary is The Able Trust, an organization helping to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. In addition, Visit Orlando will donate $2,000 to one local nonprofit in each of Orange County’s six commission districts that also supports workforce development.

Currently, 102 restaurants have signed on, including newcomers BoVine, the upscale steakhouse on Park Avenue; Bosphorous; Cedar’s; The Monroe; The Wilson; and Wa Sushi, among others.

I’d share the names of some of the other participating restaurants with you but the Magical Dining website is not currently working properly. It’s sort of an annual tradition.

Magical Dining was originally a great way for restaurants to introduce themselves to new diners by offering highlights of their regular menu for a price that represented a bargain over the “rack rate.” Some restaurants still do that, and they offer the same portion size as they would to customers not choosing the Magical Dining menu.

But in recent years we’ve seen some restaurants go off menu, putting items on the table d’hote that aren’t on their regular menus. Presumably, these items have a better food cost and their inclusion allows the restaurant to break even on the meal, or at least not lose too much. The smart participants see this as a marketing opportunity, a chance to convert new customers into regulars, which means presenting the prix fixe food just as they would at full prix.

As usual, I’ll do my research (once the website is operational and I can access the menus) and make my recommendations. Stay tuned.

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