George McKerrow, chief executive and cofounder of Ted’s Montana Grill, has found that helping others also can help drive business.
As a result of its participation in Share Our Strength’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry campaign in 2011, the Atlanta-based casual-dining chain posted a weekly sales increase of 8.4 percent compared with the same week a year earlier.
In addition, Ted’s saw a 5-percent redemption rate on bounceback coupons that were presented to participating guests during last year’s event.
McKerrow was so pleased with last year’s weeklong event — Ted’s 44 units in 16 states raised $15,000 for the No Kid Hungry program — he decided to extend it to 10 weeks in 2012 and made a commitment to generate 10 times the amount raised in 2011.
“We only participated for a week last year,” McKerrow said. “This year we’re looking at $150,000. We’re going big or we’re going home.”
In 2010, the first year that Ted’s participated in SOS’ No Kid Hungry campaign, the chain raised $5,000.
Overall, restaurants across the country last year helped SOS raise a total of $2.4 million to help combat childhood hunger through its No Kid Hungry campaign.
“These restaurants raised nearly $1 million more in 2011 than the year before, and I truly believe that’s because the restaurants are seeing real business results,” SOS’s national program director Sheila Bennett said in a statement. “Restaurants reported a bounceback coupon redemption rate of up to 40 percent and sales increases as high as 11 percent.”
McKerrow, who cofounded Ted’s Montana Grill with media entrepreneur Ted Turner in 2002, has been involved with Share Our Strength for more than two decades — 15 years of which he has shared co-chair responsibilities with Atlanta restaurateur Pano Karatassos. Under their guidance, Atlanta regularly raises more money for the Washington, D.C-based hunger organization than any other city in the nation, McKerrow said.
Last year Atlanta restaurateurs raised $750,000 for SOS’ one-night annual fundraising event, Taste of the Nation.
For 2012, McKerrow said Ted’s 10-week No Kid Hungry event will be divided into three segments.
For the first three-week cycle the restaurant chain asks guests for a $2 donation, which is matched with a bounceback check redeemable at a future visit. Anything above the initial $2 donation is matched at $2 increments at the restaurant’s discretion.
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The restaurants’ initial fundraising cycle currently is underway, he said, and will culminate around April 12 — the date for Atlanta’s Taste of the Nation event.
So far, the first cycle — which has generated $30,000 in the initial two weeks — is on target to reach its goal.
For the second three-week cycle in May, guests will be asked to round up their checks as a way of donating to No Kids Hungry. “For example, if the guest check is $46.12, we ask them to add 88 cents to it,” McKerrow said. “Then we match the amount dollar for dollar with a bounceback coupon redeemable at a future visit.”
The final cycle will extend to four weeks in September. “We’re not positive what we’ll do yet,” he said. “But it will be a bigger, better deal than the first two cycles.”
To make the event work smoothly, however, McKerrow said it must resonate with the restaurant staffs. “[Before launch] we held store meetings, showed the staffs a video and discussed the childhood hunger problem,” he said. “We ask everyone to get involved.”
Employees are excited about the fundraiser, he said.
“They believe in No Kid Hungry. A lot have even taken the pledge to help wipe out childhood hunger in the United States by 2015. It’s a good morale builder for the company.”
To help keep employees motivated, the company runs several contests with prizes. For example, one of the prizes for the server who raises the most money might be an iPod, McKerrow said.
And while employees get involved, guests appreciate such efforts, as well, he said.
“I think it just shows that you’re a good member of the community,” he said. “Consumers have personal relationships with their favorite restaurants. Young people also think companies should do more than they do. Being community-minded just helps to improve your reputation.”
At the same time, McKerrow said the chain’s participation in SOS’ annual fundraising events “strikes close to my heart. It’s appalling how these bright minds are not being nourished properly. This program finds ways to make sure kids get fed all year — during the school break and all summer long.
“It’s a great public/private partnership,” he said. “True, it can be a traffic generator. But it’s also just the right thing to do and the right cause for restaurants to be involved in.”
For more information about Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, read more about it at http://nokidhungry.org/
Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected].