A broken dishwasher or a few overcooked steaks can push a restaurant operator out of the black and into the red. Even during periods of vibrant economic growth, razor thin profit margins prompt operators to monitor costs across the board. As you know, we don’t live in an era of vibrant economic growth. In fact, we live in the deepest economic recession since The Great Depression.
Because of the moribund economy, restaurant operators have cut back on marketing, training, remodeling, and menu revamp expenses. They have reduced employee hours and eliminated high cost items from their menus. If you run a restaurant, you may have implemented one or more of these cost-cutting measures to stay within your budget. You may even have thought about slashing your charitable donation budget. Now is not the time to reduce what you give back to your community. Now is the time to give back more.
KNG’s Coats for Class program, which offers up to $50,000 a year to help disadvantage youth, is just one example of how restaurant industry companies make a difference in the community. National restaurant chains, such as Applebee’s, Brinker International, and Darden, make giving back to the community a priority during every new store opening. The impetus behind community support typically comes from a chain’s founder. For instance, Norman Brinker insisted that his company support art, civic, and university education programs.
BJ’s Brewhouse registered BJ’s Restaurant Foundation as a 501 © (3) organization that supports myriad charities, including the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. BJ’s Restaurant Foundation focuses its community involvement on children health and education issues. The company sponsors charity golf tournaments and it holds fundraising events in many of its restaurants. BJ’s Team Action to Support Communities is an initiative that presents employees with opportunities to volunteer their time for community organizations that match their interests.
Independent restaurants employ more of a targeted approach in their community involvement. Independents form local restaurant associations that give back to the community. Nashville Originals dedicates its mission to support independent restaurants. Participating restaurants promote local initiatives and they provide financial help for struggling independent restaurants. Chefs collaborate in many communities to promote sustainable food sources and organic products.
Some Ideas for Giving Back to Your Community
Your imagination is the only thing that stands in the way of your restaurant making a difference within your community. Your mantra should be, “It does not matter how I give back to the community, but that I do it.” If you cannot come up with an original fundraising or volunteering idea, then stick with some time-tested ideas that restaurateurs use to forge closer ties in their communities.
- Donate money that supports the purchase of uniforms and equipment for a Little League team. In return, you restaurant’s name will be emblazoned on the front and back of the uniforms.
- Donate some or all of the proceeds that come in from chef cooking classes. You can also include this model for cookbook sales
- Instead of donating to national causes, donate a portion or all of a dinner shift sales to support a local resident who is in dire need of financial support.
- Many civic organizations recruit local restaurants to donate food and dry goods for community wide events. By donating to such events, your restaurant will receive exposure as one of the event’s sponsors
- Close the restaurant one night to host a charity event. The charity can be of your choosing or the recommendation of a civic or business leader. Ask for employee volunteers to help serve at the event
- All across America, food pantries are witnessing all-time shortages. Work with your chef or kitchen manager to come up with a workable food cost formula that includes weekly dried and canned good donations
- Sponsor a walk-a-thon or running event that raises money for your preferred charity. You can also organize an event that promotes nutrition and fitness
What You Give, You Get Back Tenfold
Make no mistake, restaurant operators do not have to dig very hard to find worthy charitable causes to support. In most cases, representatives from charitable and civic organizations will knock down your front door. Therefore, support causes and organizations that match your passion. In addition, you cannot participate in a community event with the mindset, “What’s in it for me.”
People in the community who have never dined in your restaurant will notice once you become involved in community events and charitable causes. The people who attend an event will spread the word of your restaurant’s involvement, and we all know how word of mouth advertising benefits our restaurants. Heightened awareness translates into increased business. Community events also provide an opportunity for you to meet people who have never dined in your restaurant.
Giving back to the community can help participating businesses garner preferential treatment from civic. Do you have a patio expansion or liquor license proposal that the city council keeps rescheduling? Participate in a community event and watch the proposal soar to the top of the council’s docket. Politicians fear two things: money drying up and a lack of business support for their campaigns.
Giving will make you feel good. Watch the joy in a child’s face or notice the grateful gleam in an adult’s eye whenever you reach out and touch them. You cannot quantify how you will feel after making a difference in someone’s life. Make a difference today and become involved in or organize a community event that helps address a problem that you have passion for improving. Don’t worry about dollars and cents. Community involvement will pay you back tenfold.