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Restaurants raise funds to help fight breast cancer

Eateries make donations, offer promotions to participate in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The restaurant industry once again is harnessing its fundraising power in the fight against breast cancer as chains and independents across the country get involved during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

According to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, one of the largest breast cancer charities in the United States, more than 200,000 people will be stricken with the disease this year. Many of them will be affiliated with restaurant companies, and several of the foodservice industry’s biggest fundraisers for breast cancer have personal connections to the cause.

Casual-dining chain Hooters has raised more than $2 million over the past four years for the Kelly Jo Dowd Fund, which it establish with the V Foundation for Cancer Research in memory of manager Kelly Jo Dowd, who died of breast cancer in 2007. Not only does Hooters host fundraising events at its more than 400 domestic restaurants throughout the year, but the chain also educates its more than 17,000 female servers on the importance of breast cancer awareness and early detection.

Most recently, Hooters presented a $200,000 donation to the V Foundation. The brand also is hosting a separate fundraiser at its location in Jacksonville, Fla., to help pay medical bills and funeral costs for a cook that is battling prostate cancer and who also lost his son in late September.

Caribou Coffee also honors a departed employee who succumbed to breast cancer. To remember former roastmaster Amy Erickson, the 535-unit coffeehouse brand has sold its Amy’s Blend line of coffee, tea and merchandise for the past 15 years. Caribou invites customers who wish to honor loved ones touched by breast cancer to dedicate a pink tulip bulb, which will be planted this year at Amy’s Garden sites at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., and the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

Caribou will donate 10 percent of all sales of Amy’s Blend coffee and tea, as well as $1 per bag sold in grocery retailers nationwide, to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

“Brewing Amy’s Blend and planting Amy’s Gardens are our way of honoring a friend who left a lasting impression on our company because of her passion for life and dedication to her craft,” said Chad Trewick, Caribou’s senior director of coffee and tea.

Other brands have been raising funds even before Breast Cancer Awareness Month. CKE Restaurants, parent of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., held its sixth annual Pink Star campaign April 28 to May 18 and raised more than $1 million. For every $1 donation, customers were given paper pink stars to decorate and hang in the restaurant lobby. The proceeds went to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and CKE has raised more than $4.1 million for the charity to date.

During October, still more brands will donate portions of sales from pink-theme menu items to various breast cancer charities.

Panera Bread is bringing its Pink Ribbon Bagel back to its 50 bakery-cafes in Southern California this month, and a percentage of sales of the menu item will go to several nonprofit organizations. The Pink Ribbon Bagel, created in 2001 by Panera franchisee and breast cancer survivor Sue Stees, features cherry chips, dried cherries and cranberries, vanilla, honey and brown sugar.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar is encouraging its customers to “drink pink for the cause” in October by imbibing its promotional cocktail, the Stoli Bombshell. The cocktail will be featured on Fleming’s “5 for 6 till 7” menu, meaning it sells for $6 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and then at the premium price for the rest of the night. All of the sales from the drink are donated to the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.

Village Inn will support Susan G. Komen for the Cure this month by donating $1 for every sale of its Pink Ribbon French Silk Pie, a variant of its best-selling French Silk Pie adorned with pink-ribbon sprinkles. The chain of 216 family dining restaurants in the United States has committed to a minimum donation of $25,000.

“Each and every one of us knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer,” said Village Inn president Jeff Guido. “That’s why Village Inn is proud to partner with Komen in the fight against breast cancer. We’re sweetening efforts to find a cure with the help of one of our Best Pies in America, the Pink Ribbon French Silk Pie, and contributing to overall awareness of this serious health issue that impacts our customers, our employees and our communities.”

And while the menu items won’t be pink at 575-unit chain Hungry Howie’s Pizza, the pizza boxes in which they arrive will be. Hungry Howie’s will replace its signature yellow pizza boxes with pink ones featuring breast cancer awareness ribbons. Guests can choose to add a $1 donation to any order and will receive a pink “Love, Hope & Pizza” magnet. Also, for every time a fan shares a breast cancer story on the brand’s Facebook page, Hungry Howie’s will make another $1 donation.

Proceeds of the chain’s efforts will benefit the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and the brand hopes to double its $100,000 fundraising total from last year.

Independents have joined the cause as well. In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for example, Paddy’s Sports Bar held its first Breast Fest, with drink specials, a silent auction and a darts tournament, bringing in $3,500. Other charitable efforts from the past three years have brought in a total of $10,000 for breast cancer charities.

Oysterman’s Restaurant & Pub in Sayville, N.Y., just held its fifth “Band Together to Beat Breast Cancer” event, featuring live music, raffles and giveaways, benefiting Breast Cancer Help Inc.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].

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