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Bobby's Burger Palace is now closed after more than nine years in operation.

Credit: Luke Chen

Dining Days are returning to University City this summer July 14-24, bringing an ever-growing selection of food deals to the West Philadelphia area.

Now in its 12th year, University City Dining Days are designed to allow residents and tourists alike to sample West Philly fare at a fixed price.

A record 34 restaurants will be participating this year, including seven that are participating for the first time, including Renata’s Kitchen, Ochatto and JG Domestic. Each restaurant will offer a fixed price, three-course menu at $15, $25 or $35.

The promotion comes at an interesting time — in the middle of the summer, when Penn and Drexel students are away from campus and the area appears to slow down.

However, University City District Communications Director Chris Richman doesn’t see the lack of students in the area during the summer months as an issue for the summer promotion. Past iterations of Dining Days had been scheduled for the Fall or Winter, when students are a strong presence in the area. Instead, by scheduling Dining Days for a time when students are gone and general traffic to restaurants is slower, the promotion can have a more dramatic effect on local restaurants and businesses.

“So many people leave the city for vacations, plus most college students are not in session, so business suffers,” Richman said. Adding the Dining Days promotion was “an incentive to drive more business to the area during what is typically a slow period.”

While Richman admits the UCD misses out on a large portion of the University City population by scheduling the promotion in July, any loss in numbers is made up by the extra consumers driven to the area during Dining Days.

And by attracting extra customers to West Philly eateries when business would otherwise be slow, UCD is “helping [the restaurants] succeed during slow times, mean[ing] they can be open and operational when the students return.”

This strategy has proven successful for the area; the number of patrons to West Philly restaurants increases by 50 percent at participating restaurants during Dining Days, drawing both locals and general Philadelphia residents to the area.

UCD is also looking to use the DNC — which begins next week — as a means to drive more customers to University City eateries. As delegates, tourists, media outlets and more arrive, “We’d love for people here for the DNC to trek across the Schuylkill River and explore more of Philadelphia,” Richman said.

More than anything, Dining Days are designed to show off the culinary excellence — and diversity — of the West Philadelphia area. There’s nowhere else locally, says Richman, “where someone can choose from Ethiopian, Italian, two types of Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Laotian, Vietnamese, or typical American fare.”

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