The Big 9 Restaurant Card aims to encourage people to frequent MLK restaurants. (Photo: Contributed)

Restaurateurs are working to draw downtown employees and residents down Martin Luther King Boulevard.

MLK is growing, and city officials are investing in the area with street improvements to the corridor.

“We wanted to come up with … a campaign for how we drive people down the boulevard,” said Matt Busby, director of MLK business The Camp House. “How do we get people who are normally downtown during the day to think about the boulevard?”

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Busby came up with an idea based on one often used in the coffee world-a loyalty card, in which customers get rewarded for coming back to the same shop and eventually get a free cup of coffee. So the Big 9 Association, which is made up of people involved in the businesses and organizations of the district, have put a twist on the idea and created a “disloyalty card.”

“A loyalty card tries to get you to come to the same place over and over,”Busby, who is also volunteer head of the Big 9 Association, said. “This is trying to get you to go to different places.”

Busby said that the cards highlight a wide range of options that people might not know of or think about, such as Uncle Larry’s Restaurant and Chattanooga Smokehouse.

“I think the biggest crowd of potential customers is that lunchtime crowd, because MLK is so walkable and is becoming more walkable,” he said.

Improvements are in the works for MLK, such as sidewalk, lighting and crosswalk upgrades. There are currently lane closuresat King Street and University Street while crews work to improve those crosswalks.

So as the corridorbecomes more pedestrian-friendly, business owners want to work to drive people to their businesses.

With the disloyalty card, customers visit each participating restaurant to get a stamp on their cards. Once a card is full, it’s good for $7 off the next purchase.

Participating restaurants are Chattanooga Smokehouse, Uncle Larry’s Restaurant, The Bitter Alibi, Wafflez Factory, The Honest Pint and The Camp House.

Cards are available at the participating restaurants.

“If it’s successful, we might do round two and bring in some of the newer businesses,”Busby said.

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