Increasingly important to restaurant guests is not just the quality of service or cuisine, it is also the heart of the matter. In today’s world, more people are looking for businesses that give back—whether through local community involvement or donating to specific non-profit organizations. Known as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), at its core is this principal: make your profit and run your business in ways that consider your social, economic, and environmental impact as well as human rights.
Five years ago, Entrepreneur reported that a Nielsen survey found that over half of online consumers around the world would pay more for products and services that came from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible. Five years ago! Another report from Engage for Good reported that when considering comparative goods, 91 percent of global consumers would likely switch brands to one associated with a good cause. If you haven’t yet embraced this growing consumer demand, now is definitely the time.
And, if you’re concerned about diminishing profits, don’t be. Consumers demanding more transparency in relation to CSR are quick to let others know, through social media, the good your company is doing for your local community and the world.
Let’s take a look at a few of the ways restaurants are getting involved and how you can let your customers know that you care.
As the name suggests, Cause Marketing represents donations that go to a “specific” cause. An example is when you pay for your groceries at the supermarket and they ask you if you’d like to round up to the nearest dollar in order to support research on breast cancer.
You can implement this type of “giving back” at a restaurant by giving a percentage of the proceeds to a certain charity. You can offer this on a certain day, such as “Tuesdays for Turtles,” or link it to certain dishes, such as a “Waldorf Salad for Whales.” You get the idea. Pick a nonprofit organization that you and your staff resonate with and then let your customers and patrons-to-be know about your good intentions.
This basic approach entails you, as a socially minded for-profit, making a charitable donation to your favorite nonprofit. While a nice way to support nonprofit organizations, and get a tax break at the same time, this method does not involve the community to the same degree and, because of this, doesn’t capture the same type of excitement and social media attention derived from CSR programs that do involve the community.
Sponsor Local Organizations
There are a host of local organizations and events that can always use a helping hand. These include local schools, sports teams, art exhibits, community gardens, animal shelters, and youth community groups. Consider sponsoring a local sports team in exchange for featuring your logo on their jersey or placing a banner at the designated playing field. Offer complimentary catering services for nonprofit events.
In addition to supporting nonprofit organizations, be sure to highlight the steps that you take as a business to ensure the food your customers receive has been sustainably sourced. Do you have an Animal Welfare Policy? An example is Subway’s policy which is founded on the Five Freedoms principles proposed by the Animal Welfare Council (FAWC). It includes sourcing protein only from suppliers that use antibiotics for health reasons and not for growth promotion, obtaining seafood from suppliers with sustainable practices, and using suppliers that set standards for employment practices.
One of their franchises made the news when they constructed and donated a 52-foot-long sub to a local event connected with a local school’s cross-country team. Nice!
Support Local Suppliers
Locally and healthy sourced proteins and produce are considered the foundation of the popular farm-to-table movement. In addition to drawing in customers specifically interested in this type of cuisine, you support local businesses and, if obtained from organic farms, ones that support the environment and those interested in health-conscious cuisine. Consider looking into local farmer’s markets and food and sustainable agriculture groups. FishChoice offers a search for sustainable seafood as well as an updated-map of restaurants participating in their sustainable seafood program.
Restaurants are often bombarded with donation requests from multiple organizations. It’s important to have a nonprofit plan in place so that you can let organizations know that you have set your plans for the current year but will be happy to consider their needs in the future. Some restaurants even have forms that organizations can fill out so that they know they have been heard and you have them in your sights for future contributions or events.
Letting Your Customers Know
The key to letting your customers know that you are contributing to a better world is making sure that you’re doing so in an authentic way that does not include excessive back-patting. Bring awareness to your causes and events through your social media portals, press releases, and local media venues who are usually happy to share these kinds of stories.