Independent restaurants depend on their communities. Restaurants that stitch themselves into the fabric of the community are one step closer to experiencing sustained success. One way to win over your community is to support a popular cause or charity. In addition to doing some good for other people, your customers and community know that you don’t see them as wallets, but as people.

How Cause Marketing Makes Local Restaurants Look

Businesses that work with charities have been around forever, but now this business practice goes by the name Cause Marketing. We frequently encounter it when large corporations team up with non-profits. In the case of large corporations, Americans are skeptical about the motives of the corporations. We imagine someone is crunching numbers behind the scenes like Scrooge from Christmas Carol. And we are right. Every time I go to a supermarket and am asked to donate to a charity, not only do I feel uncomfortable about being put on the spot, I am infuriated that I hear nothing about these massively rich corporations willing to match the pocket change I can give. It’s a totally different ballgame with local businesses as most customers realize it is as much marketing as giving, and it is a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Customers full-well understand that you are giving up time and resources because you believe in something.

Type of Cause

As a rule, independent restaurants should choose either a local cause (even if customers haven’t heard about it) or at least one that has permeated the community’s conscious. A perfect example of a big charity is the March of Dimes. The charity or cause ought to go along with your restaurant’s brand. Vegetarian restaurants go with Greenpeace or the World Wildlife Fund. An Greek restaurant may help with a local scholarship fund for Greek immigrants. Location should be taken into consideration. Around my hometown, a good cause is the annual cleanup of the river. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a perfect match but be related. If you are stumped, a local foodbank or soup kitchen is always a safe bet.

Do Your Homework

Before you jump in, you should consider two issues. By doing some research, you should make sure the non-profit is legitimate (and their practices are consistent with their mission) and that the money goes to what they say it does. It’s not very to find out the basics as non-profits are expected to keep open records, so minus gross fraud you will get an idea how they run their shop. Second, find something that your customers are passionate. An informal survey where you give customers and friends (who fit your restaurant’s demographics) various choices of causes will help with your decision making process. The most important thing is to make sure it aligns with your customers’ sympathies.

Don’t Expect Your Customers to Help if You Won’t

To get customers excited about a cause, it requires that you contribute something of value. Putting up posters is not enough. A small donation that accompanies a certain customer purchase may do. If you are feeling especially generous, matching customers’ donations up to a certain point may a good idea. When it’s a cause that feeds people, you can definitely donate food to people. You can also cater for free an event of the cause to rally up support. Of course, there are many other forms of sponsorship. You can brainstorm with the charity and come up with a creative idea that works for your business and makes a difference. I’d suggest to continue the relationship with the cause. It may only happen one time a year for a couple months or it may be more frequently but this works better when you stick with your strategy.

Tell People What The Cause Is and What Are You Doing to Help

In general, people need to know for it to do anything. Whether it appears on cards on the table, on your website or on the menu, bring it to the customers attention. Of course, to really make it work, a good idea is to send out press releases and try to encourage publicity. Certainly, it is not about your restaurant but the charity. Journalists will inevitably ask about your contribution. As publicity is your best friend, you may think about advertising for the cause or tying in a promotion for those who contribute. A little creativity can make your contribution more exciting and encourage more to participate.

If It’s For Your Restaurant

With cause marketing, restaurants that come in with a plan and goals are much more likely to gain something. Customers prefer products and services that are socially conscious. But if you cannot find a way to turn it to your restaurant’s advantage, you don’t want to expend resources you can use elsewhere. You may try a test run to see if it really gets people’s attention. Nonetheless seeing true ROI normally cannot come from short-term experiments. In the end, if you can make the numbers work and the customer love it, Cause Marketing is fantastic way for your restaurant to fully join the community.