INDIANAPOLIS — More than 100 restaurants have put together specialty menus for Devour Indy Summerfest. It’s two weeks of chowing down at your go-to restaurants and finding new favorites.

Devour is strategically planned in a slower time period for Indy restaurants to give them a boost.

”This is traditionally kind of a tough period,” said Patrick Tamm, the president and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association. “Going into Labor Day, kids are going back to school here in the state of Indiana.”

Restaurants are also continuing to work through this post-pandemic world and figure out the best ways to do business now.

“Just learning what the new normal is,” said Mark Weghorst, the owner of Slapfish in downtown Indy.

Slapfish is a fast-casual dining experience connected to a more traditional sit-down restaurant next door, Rawbar. Weghorst owns both and another Slapfish location in Noblesville.

Weghorst said his restaurants show off what they do best during Devour Indy. His menu includes an appetizer and an entrée for $20. The appetizer choices are lobster dip & chips, shrimp ceviche and lobster taquitos. For the entrée there is “clobster” grilled cheese, a lobster roll and a power bowl.

“We definitely look forward to these two weeks,” Weghorst said.

He said they’re seeing lunch rushes and weekend crowds pick up, but still, the summer was not as busy as last year. Weghost thinks customers took more trips.

“I do think this summer a lot of people did take the opportunity to go to Florida or all those trips they couldn’t do the last couple of years,” he said.

Now, Weghorst is hopeful the beginning of the school year can help bring families back into their normal lives.

“With routine comes people getting back into the normal weekends: ‘We go out this night, we do that this night,'” he said.

Supply chain problems, staffing shortages and inflation are still plaguing the industry. Tamm said product outages can happen with almost anything.

“The availability of turkey this fall is very challenging. I would encourage people to get their turkeys for Thanksgiving as soon as possible if they can find them,” Tamm said.

Weghorst said Slapfish is dealing with a potato and Dijon mustard shortage right now. Weghorst plans to go to a grocery store to get as much Dijon mustard as he can because they can’t find it anywhere else.

Tamm said Indiana restaurants are adjusting to what they have to do, and they’re still in survival mode. 

“You use this week’s sale to pay last weeks bills,” Tamm said. “We’re still in that mix.”

Inflation is playing a part in restaurant troubles, as well. Tamm said it’s an ever-changing list of prices week to week.

“We continue to have weekly inflation challenges as well as in terms of what the cost of goods are,” Tamm said.

As always, staffing is still an issue. Weghorst said it’s been harder the last few years, but this problem wasn’t new with the pandemic.

“I don’t think there was ever a time in the restaurant industry where it was easy to find good help,” Weghorst said.

Customers have started to return, but even as conventions bring in out-of-town business and some locals return to work downtown, Tamm said one important genre of customer is missing.

”That business traveler: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,” Tamm said. “We just don’t see that individual still.”

As for a return to how the industry used to be before the COVID-19 pandemic, Tamm said that just won’t happen.

”You’re never going to return to what it was pre-COVID from a restaurant or hospitality or tourism standpoint,” he said. “People’s choices — how they live, how they work, how they play — have changed. The restaurant industry has changed.”

However, Tamm is adamant restaurants are going to keep hanging on and fighting through inflation, staffing shortages and whatever comes next.

“We continue to have to evolve to what our customer wants, and that’s what we’ll continue to do,” he said.

Devour Indy Summerfest will run from Aug. 22 to September 4. Check out the Devour Indy website for a full list of participating restaurants and what is on their special Devour menus.