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Whether it’s a chain or an independent restaurant, they serve at the center of their communities with the responsibility to foster relationships with their employees and customers.

Why this holiday season is a great time to give back

Now is the perfect time to build meaningful community connections. Here are five tips to do just that.

In many ways, restaurants play a wide community role. Think back to the original idea of a restaurant: a communal place for people to share a meal, break bread and feel an experiential sense of connection. Whether it’s a chain or an independent restaurant, they serve at the center of their communities with the responsibility to foster relationships with their employees and customers.

Giving back is a way of building on that sense of community connection in an authentic way that is meaningful to your restaurant’s customers and employees. It showcases your restaurant not just as a transactional business to get food, but as a place built into the identities of people in your community. According to an empirical analysis published in Business & Society, social responsibility practices are positively related to generating positive word-of-mouth from customers as it builds brand authenticity. Additionally, these practices were shown to act as a differentiation mechanism to further enhance the brand compared to alternatives presented to the customer.

The emotional connection between a customer and a brand that’s cultivated by community initiatives is particularly important with younger demographics.

Data from the 2020 5WPR Consumer Culture Report shows that 67% of millennials say it’s important to them that a brand they are purchasing from has a charitable component. With millennials representing the largest generational customer group for restaurants, it’s essential for restaurants to engage in practices they care about.

An example of an actionable way to give back in the restaurant space can be found with Bar Louie, which operates a Cocktails for a Cause program in which the restaurant donates $1 per specific cocktail item ordered. In this program, the customer feels good purchasing the specific cocktail, Bar Louie sells an extra drink, and the result is a monetary benefit for the cause.

Another example is the GiftAMeal program that I founded in 2015. In the program, diners simply post a photo of their meal to help provide a meal to a local community member in need. Over 1 million meals have been donated so far, and customers engaging in the program have an average visit frequency increase of 39%, a 20% increase in check size, and a 32% increase in tip size. It’s all about creating win-wins.

To maximize the impact of your restaurant giving program, your campaign should meet five components:

1. It needs to make a meaningful social impact that your customers care about.

2. It must be easy for guests to participate.

3. It must be easy for staff to implement.

4. The social impact should be directly attributed to something the customer engaged in at your restaurant.

5. The results should be shareable so that customers can spread the word about the good your restaurant is doing to their friends.

As we enter the holiday season, when giving is especially top-of-mind for customers, now is the perfect time to build initiatives that both strengthen meaningful community connections for your brand while also altruistically creating a positive impact on the lives of others.


Andrew Glantz is the Founder & CEO of GiftAMeal, a cause-marketing platform for restaurants that has provided over 1 million meals to those in need through its novel “food for photos” concept. For each photo shared through GiftAMeal, a meal is donated to a local food bank.

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