Shorter Taste long on results for pleased vendors

Five-day Taste of Chicago posts better-than-expected numbers

Patrons cool off Sunday on the last day of Taste of Chicago.

Patrons cool off Sunday on the last day of Taste of Chicago. (July 15, 2012)

Any way you measure it, this year's Taste of Chicago was a success, reversing, even if slightly, two straight years of attendance declines.

Estimated attendance for the five-day festival, which concluded Sunday, was 1.2 million, or 240,000 per day. Last year, the 10-day Taste of Chicago drew, per Chicago Park District numbers, 2.35 million visitors, or 235,000 per day.

Perhaps more significantly, those who attended spent money.

"We were up almost 20 percent going into (Sunday), even though it rained on two days," said Marc Malnati, owner ofLou Malnati's Pizzeria, which has participated in 31 of the 32 Tastes. "I came out (to the Taste site) after Saturday's rain, and it was as busy as I've ever seen it. The crowd was more about food this year; people were out to eat and try things."

"2012 has turned out pretty well for us," said Marc Schulman, president of Eli's Cheesecakes, a perennial Taste participant that sold a reported 18,720 slices of cheesecake this year. "Wednesday through Friday were pretty consistent, which was great, considering the rain. And Saturday was very busy; our best day since 2009."

Russ Ricobene, owner of Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill, said his booth sold 900 tacos per hour at Taste this year. "Our daily average was up 60 percent from 2011," he said.

The city also sold more than 10,000 permanent-seat tickets to the Petrrillo Band Shell headline concerts, even though lawn seating was free.

pvettel@tribune.com

CHICAGO

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