Today’s customers want to know all the ways you’re supporting their community. Even venues that entertain plenty of tourists can benefit from doing good—and talking about it. Stretch your mind and stretch your dollars, to build awareness and traffic for your business.
Some sponsorships make perfect sense, like Song Cook’s Authentic Korean Restaurant and the Reel Asian International Film Festival (Toronto, Ont.).
Film: INITIATION LOVE
Director: Tsutsumi Yukihiko
Some businesses like to designate an amount of money to donate each year. If you’re approached by several organizations, it’s a good way to restrict the number of “yes” answers. “Sorry, we’ve spent all we can this year” makes sense, and doesn’t denigrate anyone’s reason for soliciting you. And if there’s a cause that’s close to your heart, most or all of your contributions can go there. Then you can focus available resources—and make a meaningful difference. Last but not least: which charities will strike a chord with your customers?
If you receive more solicitations than you can accommodate, perhaps create a 1-page application that briefly discusses your decision-making process. It makes you appear more professional, and could lessen the chance of hurt feelings.
Donating money isn’t the only method of giving. Donating time—yours and/or your employees’—can be welcome. Examples include hosting a day to paint a building or to help fill a volunteer roster for a fundraising fair. Bonus: a boost for employee morale and engagement. You could also invite an organization to use your indoor space or parking lot for a special event or staff celebration.
Catering is another way to contribute, and could even lead to other, profitable opportunities. Deliver an appreciation lunch for local school employees, for example. Or, provide and serve one meal for a senior centre or residents of a halfway house, to give staffers a well-deserved break. Local food banks may be thrilled to have your surplus prepared food; do check into their needs and requirements first.
Other ideas? Create a culinary club that meets regularly during the school year and gives local students a chance to acquire real-world skills from a professional. Or, assist former prisoners to learn a trade in your kitchen. Sometimes grants are available to help defray costs for programs like these; investigate the possibilities.
Guests at IHOP restaurants in Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia were asked to leave cash or cheque donations in designated boxes for The Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Fund. The solicitation ran October 30 through Remembrance Day, November 11. Perhaps there is an organization that you can support in much the same way, by soliciting money from customers. The solicitation could be short term or over the course of a year.
Want to tie contributions to traffic? Three suggestions here:
• Add $1 to the cost of a menu item and donate the proceeds.
• Designate a percentage of sales for a slow day, like Monday.
• “Buy one breakfast from us, and we’ll feed breakfast to one hungry child.”
It’s not boasting to strategically mention organizations you support. Be sure to list them in as many places as possible. You may even ask to use their logo(s). Outside your walls: be sure to include community causes on your website and in social media and advertising, including school-sports programs and electronic billboards. Inside your venue: think of ways to list your contributions on menus, table tents and drink coasters. “We Care” buttons for customer-facing staff are another option. And always mention your charity work in news stories and interviews, no matter the topic.
Of course, many restaurants like to sponsor local sports like hockey or soccer—whether kids or adults. It can be a great way to gain publicity and drive traffic. Taking part could mean providing uniforms or snacks, and offering discounts to teams and families. Sponsoring other activities and events could also help you score with customers both loyal and new. Examples include school bands or music concerts, literacy programs, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada.
Create a culinary club that meets regularly during the school year and gives local students a chance to acquire real-world skills from a professional.