Monday, April 30, 2012

Restaurant philanthrophy at all-time high

A look at your local entertainment publication or newspaper’s lifestyle section will reveal a multitude of charity events an individual has the opportunity to attend. Restaurateurs, and even employees at the Louisiana Restaurant Association, are constantly solicited to donate gift certificates, serve food at an event or perform a cooking demonstration.  Just this morning, the LRA received a request to sponsor a golf tournament benefiting a battered women’s shelter. While this is a great cause, it was nothing more than a cold call solicitation via email.

During a drive down to a recent press conference, LRA President/CEO Stan Harris shared his own philosophies on determining what charities to support.  As a self-professed “reformed restaurateur” of Ruth’s Chris Steak House he became quite familiar with the volume of requests a business receives to contribute to charitable causes.

“People give to people,” Harris said. “If the charity was one that had helped, supported or impacted the life of an employee, more than likely we’d support the charity. The level at which we contributed varied depending on the situation of course, but that was one criterion.”

Phil's Grill owner Phil de Gruy hosts the annual
Burgerpalooza which benefits the Miracle League
of Greater New Orleans, May 18 from 8-11 p.m.
at Southport Hall, advanced tickets
are $35 and $40 at the door.
Choosing a cause with an emotional connection is important to most restaurateurs. Given that your participation may be difficult to calculate on a balance sheet, trust that over time the financial benefits will be felt. When possible, include your customers. It fosters goodwill and lets your customers know that helping others is important to you and your business.  

“The more you participate in charitable events, the more you are asked,” said Phil de Gruy of Phil’s Grill in Metairie. “The requests are at an all-time high for me.”

In five years of business, de Gruy’s marketing strategy has included the creation of his own fundraising campaigns. May is National Burger Month and in 2008 he started Burgerpalooza as both a celebration of that and as a way of giving back to our community.

In 2009, de Gruy partnered with The Miracle League of Greater New Orleans—a baseball league for kids with special needs—for two seasons a year.

“I was blown away by the effect this awesome charity had on families across the area that otherwise may not have this opportunity,” de Gruy shared. “I, for one, have taken my healthy children for granted many times. Since 2009, we’ve raised nearly $30,000 specifically for The Miracle League as it grows annually.”

Burgerpalooza is open to teams of four for a $100 entry fee to compete in the Best Tasting or Most Creative cookoff, May 18 from 8-11 p.m. at Southport Hall. De Gruy solicits local celebrites like former New Orleans Saint Joe Horn and Lauren Thom, known as Fleurty Girl.

Philanthropy is at the core of Phil’s Grill and countless other restaurants. In 2011 and 2012, de Gruy was a state winner of the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Neighbor Award, which recognizing the charitable contributions of restaurants to their communities.
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