There are numerous benefits to making sure your business is an active part of your local community, from improved visibility and brand image to a boost in customer numbers and easier recruitment and retention. In this article, The Sustainable Restaurant Association suggests just some of the many possible ways your restaurant can get involved.
Sponsor local initiatives
Whether it’s sponsoring a local sports team or supporting other community events, this is great PR and can be a fantastic way to demonstrate your dedication to your town or area. For a sponsorship fee, you’ll often get your name and/or logo included in marketing materials, signposting, on team jerseys, etc. – gaining an extra platform from which you can shout about your offering.
Host your own events
Consider using quieter periods to host events at your restaurant. If Tuesday afternoons are always dead, perhaps consider closing for customers and instead using the time and space to host cooking classes, workshops or tastings that align with your offering. In addition to bringing in additional revenue, this can provide a fun way for people to connect with each other and have fun while learning new skills – ideal for encouraging word of mouth.
Engage with local charities
Show you care by donating money or time to fundraisers for local charities, relief programmes and other causes. You could also partner with a local charity and set up a standing donation where a certain percentage of sales of a particular dish – or of overall net profit – is redirected to their cause.
Get staff on board
Include 1-2 paid annual volunteer days in each of your employment contracts. Encourage your staff to use these days to get involved in the community in a way that inspires them and feels meaningful. Alternatively, close your business for one day a year and do volunteer work as a team – this is a great way of building and strengthening employee bonds, in addition to giving back. You can even get staff involved in choosing the activity.
Get involved with local groups
Forming connections with local groups can open up new opportunities for collaboration, learning and growth. The London Geller College of Hospitality & Tourism at the University of West London makes a point of connecting with groups that are passionate about healthy, sustainable food. This allows them to engage in meaningful discussions, share insights and encourage a culture of continuous learning. “Supporting the community is not just about running a business; it’s about fostering a sense of connection and shared values,” explained Senior Lecturer Peter Cross.
Offer your space
One way to get involved is to offer your space for community groups to have meetings or small events, establishing your business as a community hub. This could be in private function rooms, if you have them, or simply during quieter business times. It could even bring in extra business: Young’s hosts ‘Meet up Mondays’ at one location, The Alexandra in Wimbledon, with the aim of combating loneliness. Initiatives like this can be a lifeline, particularly for older members of the community who may be struggling. (As a bonus, it also means more food and drinks ordered on a day that might otherwise be quiet.)
Highlight local talent
It’s not all about food; you can also use your space to showcase the creative talent in your community. Why not offer the walls in your restaurant as an art gallery for local artists? Provide contact details and prices next to the art, using your space as both free marketing and a point of sale. Hosting live local music is another great way to connect with your community while also attracting new customers.
Discount meals for certain groups
One way to endear your restaurant to your community is to offer discounts to particular groups, whether that be students, pensioners, health workers and/or teachers. Not only does it show compassion and consideration on your part, but it can also help make your establishment the place to go for the demographics in question.
Source more local ingredients
In addition to reducing food miles and enjoying fresh ingredients, buying directly from local farmers and producers also helps to support small business owners in your area. Fostering positive, long-term relationships with local businesses keeps money in the community and helps your business put down strong roots. For anything they can’t grow in their own walled garden, Pythouse Kitchen Garden has a network of suppliers carefully selected from within their wider community. “The suppliers we use are making a real effort to do things right and that needs celebrating,” Director Piers Milburn told us.