7+ ways to get involved in your community for restaurants

November 27, 2023
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Giving back to the community not only feels good, but it’s also good for business. When local restaurants actively support charities and involve themselves in community events, it builds goodwill and raises brand awareness. 

This article provides actionable ideas to help restaurant owners and staff get involved in your community for restaurants, make meaningful connections, and get recognized as contributors to the area. We’ll explore specific strategies like partnering with nonprofits, supporting schools, hosting events, offering discounts and donations, and more. Community involvement takes some effort but pays dividends through new loyal guests, positive buzz, and pride.

get involved in your community for restaurants

Partner with local charities and fundraisers

One impactful way for restaurants to give back is by partnering with charities through fundraising and donations. Consider hosting third-party fundraisers at your restaurant where a percentage of sales goes to the charity. For example, designate Tuesday night’s proceeds to the local animal shelter. You provide the venue, food, and staff while rallying patrons to dine for a cause. 

Some other ideas:

  • Sponsor a table at the charity’s annual fundraising gala
  • Donate gift certificates for charity auctions
  • Cater charity staff meetings or volunteer events for free
  • Host donation drives at your restaurant
  • Place a donation jar on the counter
  • Ask patrons to bring supplies like pet food, coats, etc.
  • Name a new menu item after a charity and donate proceeds
  • Deliver meals to charity staff or those they serve
  • Promote charity partnerships on menus and signs
  • Add a “community give-back fee” to checks that go to rotating charities

Getting creative with nonprofits is a win-win. The more you mobilize your customer base to give back, the more community-oriented your brand becomes. Partnering with local causes also boosts visibility and foot traffic while making an impact.

catered food

Support community centers

Local community centers like the YMCA host various programs and events that provide valuable services to families and residents. Consider sponsoring a specific community event or ongoing program. This could involve providing catered food, donating your restaurant’s food buffet style, or giving out branded gift certificates to participants and instructors.

Some other community center partnership ideas:

  • Sponsor youth sports leagues and donate team jerseys
  • Provide snacks or discount certificates for summer camp
  • Donate a portion of proceeds from a “Community Night”
  • Purchase tickets for those unable to afford community events
  • Supply instructor gifts and free meals

Collaborating with community centers positions your business as caring, generous, and devoted to community development. Both organizations can promote the partnership on social media and through internal channels to raise awareness while servicing families.

restaurant space for community events

Partner with local businesses

While partnering with charities and community centers focuses on giving back, collaborating with other local businesses can offer creative cross-promotion to indirectly boost your brand and sales.

Consider allying with venues like live music spaces, bars, boutiques, and activity operators. Cross-promote by offering discounts to each other’s customers. Give their patrons 10% off for showing a receipt. In exchange, they drive new diners to your restaurant seeking a deal.

Co-hosting events like trivia, open mics, networking socials, or cocktail fairs allows you to share resources and audiences. For example, a boutique clothing store may not have space for a runway show. Offer your restaurant venue in exchange for fashion exhibitions that inspire diners.

Other partnerships can aim to reward loyal customers with value-adds. Negotiate deals for your VIP members to receive free gifts or points from hotels and retailers. This engages diners in local perks.

Mutually beneficial partnerships creatively promote both brands so everybody wins.

sports bar

Host local sports teams pre/post-game

What better way to fuel up students than by offering great food and deals for local sports teams before and after their big games? Reach out to coaches of nearby elementary schools, high schools, colleges, amateur adult leagues, and other recreational teams to promote pre-game meals, post-win celebrations, or post-game snack specials.

Some ideas include:

  • Print out discount fliers for players to bring family and fans
  • Create carb-loading special meal discounts pre-game
  • Offer congratulatory free desserts post-victory
  • Set up TVs to play school games and tournaments
  • Decorate your restaurant in school colors for big rivalry games
  • Sponsor teams by donating portion of specials ordered

Position your restaurant as the go-to spot for sports teams, families, and supporters. Offer deals without compromising profits since volume will offset discounts. Just make sure to decoratively brand it around spirit and community.

Give back to schools and education

Beyond athletics, find ways to support academic initiatives at neighborhood schools through charitable giving campaigns channeled to make an impact. Raise funds year-round or during seasonal campaigns. Contribute a portion of select menu item sales. Donate catering for school functions. Purchase supplies from teachers’ wish lists.

Some ideas for giving to schools:

  • Sponsor a scholarship for graduating seniors
  • Donate catering for PTA meetings and teacher conferences
  • Fundraise during homecoming for school band equipment
  • Purchase books for the library or toys for guidance counselors
  • Donate supplies requested by teachers and classrooms
  • Send gift cards for teachers to use procuring items

Schools are central pillars of every community. Earmarking donations toward their needs gives back in a tangible way while earning local goodwill. Teachers will recognize your generosity and families may be more inclined to dine at a business contributing toward their child’s education.

Host community events

Restaurants naturally provide a great venue, food, and atmosphere for bringing groups together. Capitalize on this infrastructure to host community events that give back while showcasing your business.

Consider organizing or sponsoring events like:

  • Neighborhood clean-up days with free food and drinks after for volunteers
  • Seasonal parties around holidays like Halloween or December holidays
  • Community group meeting spaces offered for free
  • Local artist exhibitions and live entertainment promoting talent

The key is crafting events that attract large groups for a good cause. Not only does this allow you to donate tangible resources like meals, space, and refreshments, you also get the benefit of increased visibility, foot traffic, and community goodwill. Promote any community events across all your marketing channels. Offer special discounts for attendees to incentivize participation further.

Get involved in your community for restaurants

Giving back through community involvement offers tremendous opportunities for restaurants to support important causes while also boosting their business. Whether you host fundraisers for charities, sponsor events at community centers, partner creatively with local businesses, offer deals for sports teams, donate to schools, or host public events – finding avenues to get actively engaged builds goodwill and brand awareness.

We encourage you to revisit the ideas in this article and identify 2-3 that resonate with your restaurant’s strengths, capacity, and social mission. Every business is unique, so adapt tactics to best leverage your food, venue, staffing, and customer base for making an impact. Spread awareness of community initiatives on social media and through grassroots local channels.

While getting involved does take some additional effort, the tangible benefits for your neighborhood and the long-term loyalty earned make it worthwhile. Customers care about businesses giving back and building up the community’s infrastructure. Use that as inspiration for finding your niche to leave a positive mark in your own special way.

Check out these great podcast episodes about serving in the community: 

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