What happens in Las Vegas may well stay there, as that city’s marketing slogan goes. But if a group of local restaurateurs have their way, a new message about New Orleans food should extend around the globe and strike a chord close to home as well.

The Greater New Orleans chapter of the Louisiana Restaurant Association is now beating the drum for the slogan “We Live to Eat.” It is the centerpiece of a campaign intended to accentuate the region’s reputation for great food, and the message is aimed both at visitors and local residents.

“We’re known worldwide for our cuisine, so how do we garner that and make it known as a treasure to be envied by the rest of the world?” asks Sean Malone, a board member with the LRA’s local chapter and an executive at Serranos Salsa Company.

The idea first came up last summer when the local LRA board was searching for ideas to pump up business during the seasonal tourism lull. Eventually the group decided to go for a long play and developed a campaign they hope will attach itself to the city’s culinary identity.   
Tommy Cvitanovich, the LRA’s vice chairman and owner of Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, says the inspiration was the success of the “What happens here, stays here” marketing slogan for Las Vegas.

“They’ve had a lot of success with that, and I think the next best thing for New Orleans other than being known as a party city is being an eating city,” Cvitanovich says. “We want people to remember that, to have ‘We Live to Eat’ in their heads when they think of New Orleans.”

Las Vegas launched its slogan in 2003 and last year the city’s tourism bureau infused another $7.8 million into the marketing campaign. By contrast, Cvitanovich says the “We Live to Eat” message will rely on grassroots efforts. 

For starters, the slogan and an associated logo that’s been dubbed the “fork de lis” will begin appearing at restaurants and on suppliers’ delivery trucks. There’s a social media campaign and a Web site, www.LiveToEatNOLA.com, and restaurants are encouraged to draft “We Live to Eat” menus.

“For locals, the message is, if you eat out once a week, maybe go out twice a week, wherever you’re going, because it’s important to a vital sector of our economy,” says Cvitanovich. “The hospitality industry is the backbone of the New Orleans economy and the restaurants are the backbone of the hospitality industry.”