Ryan Williams
Jeremy Julian

Why Your Restaurant Needs A Cause (And How To Do It)

August 12, 2019

Move over, food bloggers and Instagram influencers: there’s a new restaurant partner in town.

Joining forces with a charitable organization is an emerging trend in the hospitality industry. Of course, some restaurants have allied themselves with a cause for years (or created their own foundation entirely, like BJ’s), but it’s now, in a social media world of high visibility, that this movement is really gaining traction.  

Below, we’ll take you through the main reasons why your restaurant would benefit from a cause, as well as how you can put this into practice. Read on for inspiration.

It’s good for business

As a restaurant owner, you might not see supporting a charitable organization as high on your priority list. With overheads and market competition rising, not to mention treading the fine line between a profitable markup and angry customers, it can be tough to figure out where you’d even get the cash from. And what’s the point, if you don’t get anything back from it?

You may be surprised to learn that the positives of giving money away aren’t all “warm, fuzzy feelings”.

Supporting a cause can help you to generate more business: it can draw new customers to you, happy in the knowledge that their money isn’t only being spent on a tasty meal, but also benefiting somebody else. You will also find that customers are more likely to become loyal returners, as they appreciate your charitable efforts.

We’re becoming more socially conscious as a society, and this is reflected in what consumers want. In a recent survey, 78% of Americans believe companies must do more than just make money — they should positively impact society too.

It connects you with your local community

Supporting a local cause as a restaurant shows compassion and humanity to the people around you.

People within your community will be aware of your philanthropy, employees will value your altruism and will be more inclined to view your business more favorably. Basically, you’ll be seen as a good guy by everyone.

No man is an island, and this is true for independent restaurants as well. Having the support and blessing of the community that you live and work in is crucial to the survival of your business. It’s important to support your community in return.

How to find your cause and provide support as a restaurant

So after reading about why your restaurant needs a cause, you’re probably wondering how to go about doing it.

First, you need to choose a charity that is related to your restaurant, and shares similar values.

For example, if you run a seafood restaurant, you could partner with a nonprofit that works to end overfishing and destructive fishing methods, and educates on sustainable fishing instead. Your customers will appreciate you investing in the future of our oceans and promoting healthy, conscious choice-making.

As to how you support your cause, there are a number of ways that you can help. Mostly, it depends how hands-on you want to be as a business.

Below we’ve listed a few suggestions to inspire you with starting your charity work.

Food donations

Donating food is both admirable and logical: not only are you helping those in need, but you are also cutting down on food waste by getting rid of unsold excess products.

Take a leaf out of these restaurants’ books by donating your unsold food to a local food bank, soup kitchen or homeless shelter at the end of each service or day.

If you are considering setting up a food donation scheme, then check with the nonprofits you plan to work with so that you know what their rules and guidelines on food donations are.

Creatonetary donations

Donating money is another strong option if you’re thinking about how to support a cause.

It may feel like a bit of a cop-out (as opposed to donating food or hosting events), but think about the end goal: whatever money you raise will go towards a great cause and help people in need.

There are a few different ways you can incorporate this into your overall restaurant strategy. For example, you could add a dollar donation from the sale of a best-selling dish. Make sure you write this on your menu to let your customers know that the proceeds are going to this worthwhile charity.

Alternatively, you can partner with a charity to sell products online and split the profits. If you have your own restaurant website, you can add e-commerce functionality with a plugin, or alternatively create an online store that customers can visit easily. You can sell branded items like tea towels or crockery, your own charity food products like Newmans do, or create curated recipe books — then just split the profits with your nonprofit partner. It’s a fun, creative way to raise awareness and visibility of both your restaurant and your cause.

More simply, you could just give a monthly donation to your charity or nonprofit of choice.

Volunteering in the community

Volunteering for your local nonprofit is a great way to give back while raising the profile of your restaurant. You can partner up with a charity, get together a team of volunteers and spend a day every few months helping them out.

The great thing about this idea is that it’s something your staff can get involved in. They get to see firsthand what a difference your restaurant and your team are making.

Spending the day outside, planting or working with children is excellent for team building and boosting morale.

You can take pictures and write about your volunteering experience on social media, going into more detail on your restaurant blog about what this opportunity meant to your staff and business.

Host your own charity events

Foodie events and pop-ups are a fun and creative way to get attention as a restaurant, so why not incorporate this into your charity campaigning?

Hosting one-off events will generate a buzz around your business by creating an exclusive feel as well as showing a more personal, human side to your brand as you raise money for your charity.

If done properly (with effective promotion), charity pop-ups can be hugely successful for your business long-term too. The new customers that your event attracts will enjoy your food, love your innovation, and become regular customers, increasing your trade afterward.

There are many reasons why you should support a charitable cause as a restaurant. This is an opportunity to simultaneously provide help to those who need it, while boosting your own business’s profile.

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