An Industry Of Giving

Restaurants’ Charity Impacts Employees and Communities

Many days last year, patrons flooded Papa’s Pizza’s five locations and filled them to capacity. Although Brandon Moniz, vice president of operations, would like to attribute all the fanfare to the restaurants’ great Italian pies, the crowds often show up with ulterior motives. No, not to drink beer and take in a Ducks or Beavers game with friends. They were often on-hand to lend a helping hand.

Being the good neighbor that it is, Papa’s Pizza is a regular rallying point for a variety of fundraisers supporting local causes. In fact, the chain offers much more than a gathering space. Papa’s donates a very generous 50 percent of the proceeds from these special events to schools, churches, non-profits, those with medical needs or other charities – heartfelt causes like the fundraiser that its Eugene parlor held for the children of a local police officer killed in the line of duty.  “The overwhelming community response and overall partnership was amazing!” recalls Moniz. “At the end of the day, you're partnering with your community. We want to be the first place that families choose if they’re in need of help in any way – medical, memorial, or maybe a house fire.” 

In some ways, doing good deeds can be as rewarding for the giver and the receiver. Such was the case when Papa’s Pizza was recently among four Oregon-based businesses honored with a Restaurant Neighbor Award for exceptional contributions to their communities. The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) also recognized in-state winners Bambuza Vietnam Kitchen, Salt & Straw, and Standing Stone Brewing Company for their generosity in 2016. 

NRA created the award with founding partner American Express to highlight the positive contributions restaurants make in their local neighborhoods each and every day. Approximately 94 percent of restaurants make charitable contributions totaling roughly $3 billion a year. 

For many restaurateurs, helping out those in need has been embedded in their company culture from the beginning. “Philanthropy has always been central to the idea behind Salt & Straw,” points out Owner Kim Malek about her successful ice cream company. “When I wrote my business plan six years ago, community was an important part of what we wanted to accomplish. And the reason is not just because I believe it’s important, because I do. It’s also because I don’t think a strong business can exist if you’re not part of a strong community. So, I think this idea of businesses existing or thriving and just taking isn’t actually sustainable. If we can find ways that businesses can give back in a way that also sustains their business, then that’s just a win-win for everybody and everybody grows.”

Standing Stone Brewing helps support local non-profits that share the same values and ethos that are central to the company’s mission: Environment, Local Food & Farming, Education and Community.  “Standing Stone partners with 50-plus charities within our community each year,” reports Samantha Cathcart, restaurant manager. “We contribute with both in-kind donations and financial contributions. We donate to a healthy amount of school/educational groups, environmental conservancy groups, emergency relief funds, local food shelters and more. We also have just started working with a local group that feeds the homeless every Tuesday. We are committing to a weekly donation of our grass-fed beef that is raised on our farm, along with hot prepared foods that are ready to serve. Our staff is excited to get involved and serve those who are less fortunate in our community.”

Bambuza Vietnam Kitchen’s concept of ‘neighborhood’ encompasses more than the city blocks around its restaurants. “To us, philanthropy is really all about taking care of each other – whether they are our neighbors right here in our community or on the other side of the globe in sub-Saharan Africa,” explains Daniel Nguyen, CEO and founder of Bambuza Hospitality Group with wife/chef Katherine Lam. “We have been blessed in so many ways. Philanthropy is the direct expression of the gratitude we feel as leaders of our company. Katherine and I hope that we can model giving back in hope of encouraging the people that work with us to do the same. We have experienced so much joy in serving others and hope that we can help inspire that spirit of service.”

While Nguyen zooms out as a member of the Board of Directors for WaterAfrica, a charity that transforms lives by bringing safe water, sanitation, and hygiene to villagers in Zambia, he also zooms in and focuses efforts locally. “Here at home, our ‘Dinner For Our Friends’ is charity with a simple goal of bringing a glimmer of hope through sharing a meal and a smile with our friends struggling on the streets of Portland,” he says. “Caring for others in times of greatest need can be a tremendous comfort to those people.”

When Bambuza began serving those outside its restaurant doors, it was primarily the owners themselves figuring things out on the fly. “At first, we didn’t know how or what to do exactly,” admits Daniel. “Katherine said, ‘Just get out there and do it, and we’ll learn it along the way.’

“There were numerous times when we prepared a meal to serve our homeless neighbors, but forgot to bring along utensils or the proper condiments,” but he adds: “It didn’t matter that they were eating soup with a fork out of cup at a homeless camp or that the kitchen delivered the food to the table slower than normal. The truth of the matter was that when we are trying to do good, people forgive our shortcomings. I think that it keeps us all humble when we serve others.  continue →

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