December 6, 2017

A restaurant is more than just a food establishment. It’s a staple of the community, a building full of many memories and an everyday experience between business and patron.

Apart from stellar menus, unique flavors and high profits, restaurants stand out by showing how much they care, how human they really are.

The National Restaurant Association estimated the industry as a whole donates $3 billion a year to communities, all this despite narrow margins and fierce competition.

Culinary students and professionals can leverage the power of charity in their current and future restaurants for mass impact. Here’s how you can give back in 2018:

Help with disaster recovery

The aftermath left in the wake of major natural disasters is often severe, exposing populations to food shortages, power outages and limited shelter.

Although restaurants in those same areas may be equally impacted by damaging weather events, establishments that are chains or that have multiple locations can often move resources from one store to the next. And if it means shutting down one operation for a few days, or slashing prices, to facilitate feeding an injured population, then many owners find it important to do so.

Combat hunger

Restaurants can partner with local organizations and municipal governments to help end hunger in their regions. This often takes the form of charity food drives, a percentage-based donation of sales or a supply chain of food routed toward soup kitchens and the like.

The NRA found nearly 75 percent of all restaurants donate to end hunger.

Partner with meaningful causes

It doesn’t always have to be about food.

Simply providing time, staff and or even your brand name can help elevate a charitable cause. Allowing employees time off to volunteer as a group can also be a great way to assist with the causes of their choosing.

Cancer research, education funds and holiday drives are common options.

Donate surpluses

If your restaurant happens to have food left over at the end of the day, or even cooking oils you were intending to trash, contact food banks, conservation organizations and nonprofits.

There are a number of ways to reuse, resell or recycle restaurant goods (or waste). Vehicles can run on oil and charities may accept food, for instance.

Run discount specials or appreciation days

Offering appreciation days to servicemembers, employees of specific businesses or public-sector workers is a great way to say thanks. Requiring proof of ID and association is all you likely need to provide a nice meal for free.

You can also reduce prices on certain items and place icons next to menu options to designate meals with proceeds that go toward a cause. Running a “10 percent of all sales go toward Toys with Tots” campaign, for example, can bring in new patrons and raise money for those in need.

Invest in growth

Joining cooperatives and other business ventures can help pool resources across restaurants, increase political clout with local government and raise awareness for causes important to restaurant owners.

Any money earned or saved through these efforts can be applied to adding new staff, opening new locations or retaining top talent, all of which increase economic activity in the area.

Source locally

Buying directly from local farmers keeps the engines turning for small-business owners who may otherwise be left out of large, corporate sourcing agreements. Customers also appreciate fresh, local food options, as evidenced by the rise of farm-to-table offerings.

With these ideas in mind, how will you approach charitable giving in 2018?