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Why your restaurant needs its own social mission

If you own or manage a coffee shop, bakery or restaurant, or if you’re thinking about opening one, you may want to consider supporting a social mission. Serving more than food or a cup of coffee can nourish your community and the lives of you and your staff.

A restaurant owner/manager has a lot going on, whether you're opening a new store or managing an existing one. From how to get more people in the door to managing staff schedules to food safety, your job is never done. One thing that often gets overlooked is the value of making a connection and an impact in your local community.

Millennial Marketing recently found that 50 percent of millennials are more willing to make a purchase when their purchase supports a cause. And it’s not just millennials who support social causes. A recent survey conducted by Deloitte of business leaders and HR professionals found that “citizenship and social impact” were rated critical or important by 77 percent of the respondents.

Supporting your community feels good, of course, but it also gives your staff something to be proud of and share with your customers. Small independent restaurants and multi-location operations can produce a significant impact when they focus their time and energy on the organizations that matter most to their teams and communities.

There’s no better feeling than making a difference in your community and in the lives of others. Having a focus, and sticking to it, will help you and your staff get behind a cause and create real change.

Focusing your efforts will pay off

Marketing research firm Toluna recently surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults and found that younger consumers expect more than a donation to charity; they expect brands to have a corporate responsibility platform. It should always feel good to make a donation and help your community, but is there a way to make a bigger impact? Think creatively. Where can you focus your charitable time and efforts? And remember, not all help is necessarily monetary.

You will make a difference — every day

Restaurant owners interact with hundreds of people on a weekly basis. Not only are you in tune with the people who dine in your restaurant, but you’re connected to other business owners and community leaders. Through these connections, you may start to notice a growing community need or a charitable cause that you’d like to support.

Established in 2010, The King’s Kitchen in Charlotte, North Carolina is a public restaurant that uses 100 percent of its profits and proceeds to feed the poor in Charlotte. Minister and restaurant owner Jim Noble also works with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Dream Center on “The Restoration Program,” a five-part training program that helps employ, train and minister to the homeless, poor, troubled youth, rehab graduates and others who need employment. Two passions collided in the mission of The King’s Kitchen — serving food and serving God.

Inspired by a magazine article about The King’s Kitchen, Vicky Ismael and Jim Freeze launched Carroll’s Kitchen in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2016. The nonprofit social enterprise restaurant is creating opportunities for single homeless women by empowering them through job training, life skills and housing. The endeavor has been such a success that Carroll’s Kitchen opened a second location inside Raleigh’s Morgan Street Food Hall in July.

Creating an L3C structure

While The King’s Kitchen and Carroll’s Kitchen are both 501c3 nonprofit establishments, you may decide that an L3C Structure makes more sense for you. Created 10 years ago in response to a growing number of socially responsible companies, the L3C business structure is a hybrid form of a limited liability company (LLC) and a 501c3. In an L3C, or low-profit company, companies can make a profit of 1 to 10 percent, but the profits are secondary to the company’s social purpose. The creation of the L3C structure has helped socially responsible companies secure more private investments, since the profits they do make can go toward investors. Find out more about L3C structures here.

Getting the word out

Choosing a social mission for your restaurant is not about being on trend. Social missions should never be considered as a way to increase publicity or gain more customers. How can you share your social mission with your customers and your community without over-promoting and coming across as insincere? The best way is to share your story. Everyone can appreciate the story behind why you’ve chosen to support a cause. Additionally, try sharing the stories of those you help. Do you have access to share success stories or can you interview those who have been helped through your program? The community members visiting your website and social pages will enjoy seeing that the work you do is making a change. Sharing your story could inspire a spark of hope or motivate someone to reach out for help.

There are hundreds of wonderful charities and causes that need your assistance. As a local restaurant operator, remember that you can make the most impact by exploring the needs of your own neighborhood first.

Whatever your mission and your reason, choosing to concentrate on one mission over many will help you and your business make a greater impact on your community in the long run.

Christopher Sebes has spent his entire career in hospitality management and technology. He received a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management in England and managed hotels and restaurants on three continents, including multi-unit restaurant operations in Europe and the U.S. He created the first Microsoft Windows point-of-sale company, Twenty20 Visual Systems, which he sold to Radiant Systems. He went on to become the CEO of Progressive Software before founding XPIENT in 2004. XPIENT was sold to Heartland Payment Systems in 2015 and he was tapped to become the president of Heartland Commerce, a major player in restaurant and retail management technology. Today Christopher is the president of Xenial Inc., formerly known as Heartland Commerce.

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