November 2005 Edition
Making a Difference

Making a Difference

 

Restaurants, and the people who work in them, are integral parts of the communities where they’re located, so it’s only natural for them to want to give something back to the neighbourhoods that support them.

 

Everyone from the CEO to the busperson has a role to play in supporting the community – whether that community is defined as the little league team down the block, or as the thousands of people affected by a natural disaster. Big companies are more likely to have the resources to write big cheques, but staff members show big hearts by organizing fundraisers, by volunteering to coach local kids’ teams, or by donating their culinary or service skills at a homeless shelter.

 

The devastation created by Hurricane Katrina has brought out the giving spirit of people in foodservice. More than 17,000 restaurants took part in the National Restaurant Association’s Dine for America event on October 5. By hosting events on this day, these businesses not only participated in the huge fundraising effort, but also gave their customers the opportunity to help merely by dining out on that day. Foodservice businesses from quickserve to white linen participated in the big day by hosting events, or by donating all or a portion of the day’s sales or profits. Individual employees pitched in, too, either by volunteering to work on the big day, or by donating a portion of their tips from that day.

 

Other foodservice businesses are also pitching in to help. For example, Wing’s Food Products is donating $2 for every case of Grange and McCaul N’awlins Creole Sauce the company sells from September through November 2005.

 

Sysco Canada has chosen to recognize and applaud the generosity of its employees by matching all employee donations to hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The company has also introduced the Sysco We CARE Community Service Awards Program. These awards recognise the exceptional commitment to community service demonstrated by Sysco organizations. The We CARE program honours dedication and accomplishments in the fields of hunger relief, education and development, and environmental protection.

 

But it doesn’t take a disaster to convince people in foodservice to pitch in. For the past 22 years, Canadian foodservice and hospitality businesses have been raising funds through the non-profit organization Friends of We Care.

 

“The sole focus is to generate funds to assist in sending Easter Seals kids to their summer camping programs across Canada,” said executive director Kevin Collins.

 

Friends of We Care’s logo is a child holding three heart-shaped balloons.

 

“It’s probably the best representation of what we do,” Collins said. “The three balloons represent the manufacturers of our industry, the distributors, and the operators coming together as one to help the kids.”

 

The organization uses a number of avenues to generate funds.

 

“First and foremost we have what we call a major sponsor,” Collins said. “They pay an annual fee to become a member of Friends of We Care. That enables them to get on our Web site, our letterhead, any promotional material that we create. At any of our special events that we do, the major sponsors are recognized.

 

Those special events are the other way Friends of We Care generates funds. The organization administers about a dozen such events, and sponsors hold their own third-party events as well, which range from dress-down days to golf tournaments to walk-a-thons.

 

“There’s a number of things they do internally to generate funds for Friends of We Care,” Collins says. “Sysco is definitely a huge supporter of us through a number of their food shows and various events that they do.”

 

He added that Friends of We Care is very aware that there are a number of very worthy causes, but that the organization is has a special place in foodservice philanthropy. “We target solely within the industry and their partners, and focus on generating funds within.”

 

Individual businesses also make great contributions to their own local communities. The Courtyard Restaurant in Ottawa is locally owned and operated, and takes pride in its role in the community. The restaurant not only supports charities such as Boys and Girls Clubs, but is also a keen participant in events, such as the annual Bon Appetit fundraiser. Now in its 10th year, Bon Appetit raises about $100,000 for charities every year. The funds usually go to smaller charities that may not have the resources for major fundraising efforts, and often targets poverty, food relief and senior citizens.

 

Although about 80 restaurants and wineries participate in Bon Appetit, Courtyard Restaurant owner Phil Waserman says the industry could be more active. It’s not hard to get restaurants to provide a gift certificate or make a donation, but it’s tougher to get people to get active in the community.

 

“It’s good for the industry to be out there,” he said. “I don’t think enough restaurants participate.”