It’s been three years since Bite of Seattle graced the grounds of Seattle Center. The city’s original and largest food and beverage festival drew thousands of people eager to sample the bounty from the area’s diverse culinary scene. An annual summertime staple, its absence has only made locals hungrier than ever for its return.
Thankfully, the wait’s over, as the classic festival returns July 21-23 under new ownership and is now officially known as the CHEQ Bite of Seattle.
If you’re unfamiliar with CHEQ, the company’s CEO and Co-Founder, Tom Lapham, is happy to explain: “CHEQ is the first mobile payments app and platform for restaurants, bars, hotels, stadiums and the entire hospitality industry to enable social purchasing and gifting.” He adds, “However, what truly sets CHEQ apart is that users can pay for and send food and drinks to one another for on-premise consumption from anywhere in the world. Think of Venmo, but instead of sending cash, you’re sending tangible food and drinks to your friends or loved ones through the app at any of the amazing top restaurants and bars on CHEQ’s growing platform.”
Lapham shares that the idea behind CHEQ originated after he moved to Beijing and started another high-growth company back in 2013. He saw how quickly Asian markets were innovating in the mobile and digital payments space, recalling a time in Shanghai when a man on the street was asking for money with a QR code rather than a can. “I realized the potential of a cashless society,” he says, “and after returning to the U.S. and experiencing bad service at venues, I figured the U.S. could benefit from adopting mobile technology for ordering and gifting similar to what I had experienced in Asia.”
Currently, CHEQ is being used by millions of people in over one dozen pro sports stadiums throughout the country and by many restaurants in the geographic areas of the stadiums.
As for Bite of Seattle, the motivation behind CHEQ acquiring the festival stemmed from a desire to deepen ties to the local community. CHEQ’s corporate office is located in Kirkland. “Our mission,” says Lapham, “is to use the Bite as a starting point to provide value to attendees throughout the rest of the year to help residents discover amazing venues in their neighborhoods that they want to return to, and to help restaurants and vendors get access to this dynamic community of new fans.”
This year’s Bite will have a few different twists to it. In recent years, Lapham notes that the focus of the event had moved toward traveling “carnival” style food and local brick and mortar restaurants had largely withdrawn their participation. CHEQ is bringing the Bite back to its roots by reengaging with the city’s restaurant community.
Lapham explains that the festival will plug attendees and exhibitors into the CHEQ platform, allowing them to engage with one another throughout the rest of the year and not just during the event.
Attendees will download the CHEQ app, which gives them a map of the Bite and lets them order via phone, skipping the lines and thus enhancing their experience. Note: this will be a cashless festival.
After the Bite is done, users will get promotions and exclusive experiences from the various restaurants that participated at the festival, inviting them to experience these establishments’ brick and mortar locations. And the restaurants have a chance to access an audience of food-loving guests to entice them to try their venues and potentially become regular customers. It’s a win-win situation.
The festival promises more than 200 restaurants and dozens of arts and crafts vendors. Priority will be given to local, unique restaurants, especially those locally owned by families and individuals, over large chains or out-of-town establishments. It's an opportunity for attendees to discover and taste the best of what Seattle hast to offer. Latham says, “We have a strong focus on bringing a mix of foods, both geographically and stylistically. We want attendees to be able to try amazing dishes that they’ve never seen before.”
There’s also much effort being put into enhancing the entertainment at the festival, with a full lineup of more than fifty well-known bands and acts that will perform on three stages, including headliner Sir Mix-A-Lot, Polyrhthmics, Nite Wave, Massy Ferguson, The Paperboys, The Little Lies, Grace Love and many more.The Bite has free entry, but VIP tickets are available for purchase and include access to a designated VIP viewing area at the Mural and Fountain Stage, as well as access to VIP bathrooms and one ticket for the Beer & Cider Tasting Garden that's good for five tastes.
The future of the Bite is obviously in good hands, as CHEQ plans to grow and augment the event each year to bring more activities and fun experiences for all participants to enjoy.