Restaurant Industry Insights

Giving Back: How Restauranteurs Are Supporting the World and Their Communities

In 2023, a survey by the National Restaurant Association found that 84% of operators have made charitable contributions since 2020. This comes in the form of food and money donations, in-kind contributions, donated space, and encouraging staff to volunteer while on the restaurant’s time clock. 

Not only does this generosity warm the heart, but it also ensures goodwill within the community. Over 70% of consumers are more likely to visit a restaurant that supports local charity organizations.

Restaurants Stepping Up

The co-founder of the restaurant Medium Rare, Mark Bucher, also founded Feed the Fridge. This program brings around 3,500 dinners weekly to those facing food insecurity in the Washington, D.C. area. They recently expanded to New Orleans. Feed the Fridge refrigerators are placed around the city, usually near schools, senior living centers, churches, and public libraries. Anyone can help themselves, no questions asked. 

The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has raised over $73 million to purchase life-saving training and equipment for first responders. The CEO of Firehouse Subs, Don Fox, noted their charitable efforts increased brand recognition and customer loyalty.

One of the leaders in this realm, José Andrés, and the World Central Kitchen (WCK), recently mobilized the first ship to bring food to Gaza.

Reaching Gaza by Boat

The U.N. estimates that about 1.7 million people living in Gaza have been displaced since the war began, many with little to no access to food, water, or shelter. WCK worked with Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates to open a corridor, allowing a ship from Open Arms, a Spanish charity, to deliver 200 tons of food, or enough food for about half a million meals. 

Instead of waiting for a dock to be built, the WCK team began constructing a pier to enable them to unload the cargo. The cargo headed to food distribution points and the 60 kitchens WCK is operating in the region. A second ship with 300 tons of food is already in place. 

This global charity started in 2010 after the Haiti earthquake. Since then, it has fed people in war-ravaged Ukraine, during the massive wildfires in Texas, after earthquakes in Japan, and across the nation during the pandemic. Their model is based on taking quick action and leveraging local resources.

In 2022, Rod Howard directed We Feed People, a documentary about WCK and its founder.

More Restaurants Lending a Helping Hand

Darden, parent company to Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, The Capital Grille and more, created the Darden Restaurants, Inc. Foundation. The foundation has donated over $110 million to charities in their restaurants’ communities.

Foodie Philanthropy

Foodie Philanthropy supports organizations that help others by hosting dinners at numerous restaurants. In 2024, their support went to the James L. West Center for Dementia Care. Over 30 restaurants participated. 

Every year, for one night, patrons join a table of 10 at participating restaurants. They enjoy a chef-curated three-course meal with drink pairings. Community leaders serve as hosts, encouraging others to dine at the table. The funds raised go to the yearly charity of choice, and all Foodies celebrate the occasion at an after-dinner party.

Thus far, they’ve raised over $369,800 for their charities. 

Chipotle Fundraising

Chipotle Fundraising allows organizations to host an event for their cause. Chipotle gives 25% back to the organization and their cause. To date, they’ve raised $95 million for 342,000 fundraisers. Each fundraiser gets a unique code. When supporters enter the code, 25% of their sales go directly to the cause.

Restaurants have come up with nearly limitless approaches to give back to their communities and the world. From donating unused food to providing a percentage of their profits to a chosen charity, each act creates a ripple effect, making a difference in someone’s life. Feeding America provides a bridge, picking up food from restaurants and delivering it to those who need it. You can also host a food drive or charity event and get the word out!

Food and meal donations are one of a restaurant’s most consequential methods to give back. Today’s apps make it easy to keep food out of landfills and into the hands of those who need it. 

Organizations supporting this process include Dine Out for No Kid Hungry, ZeroPercent, and Copia. Are you ready to make a difference? Investing in your community can genuinely set your brand apart.

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