Menu donations and fundraising initiatives: How to work with charities

Antonio Carluccio and six members of his team took part in a 500-mile charity bike ride in July in aid of Action Against Hunger

Despite an on-going tough economic backdrop, an increasing number of hospitality businesses across the UK are partnering with charities to raise money through menu donations and fundraising events. 

BigHospitality has spoken to two of these businesses, Carlucio’s and Park Inn by Radisson, to find out why corporate social responsibility remains so high on the agenda.

The partnerships:

In August 2007, Carluccio's formed a relationship with humanitarian charity Action Against Hunger. Inspired and moved by the hard work undertaken by the charity, the restaurant chain decided to support their efforts to help families in over 40 of the world's poorest countries feed their children and build a sustainable future. 

To date, over £850,000 has been raised to help their projects. The majority of this money has been raised by a 50p donation from every Penne Jardineira - the best-selling dish on the Carluccio's menu.

Meanwhile, the Park Inn by Radisson Manchester hotel has adopted the local charity, Forever Manchester, and the hotel team are now aiming to raise in excess of £10,000 over the next 12 months to support the charity’s ‘Manchester Million’ campaign, which aims to get businesses to commit to a £1000 donation to help support the work of grass-roots projects at the heart of the community.

In terms of activity so far, the Park Inn by Radisson Manchester hotel team have completed a charity cycle ride covering 1300 miles, the creation of a unique charity ‘Manctini’ cocktail and the latest initiative with a 50p donation from the restaurant's House Favourites menu.

Why these partnerships?

  • Simon Kossoff, Carluccio’s managing director, said: “When we first started the business we felt we wanted to do something with our team that was nothing to do with the business, something we could do together as a team-building exercise if you like.

“We looked for a charity we could build a partnership with. For the first two charities that we chose, we couldn’t get a real engagement with our team. But it was only when we started working with Action Against Hunger that we got a lot of engagement and it was something that the whole team felt part of.”

Neil Raw, general manager at the Park Inn by Radisson Manchester hotel, added: "As a responsible business and employer, we wanted to have a strong presence within our community and through supporting Forever Manchester, we can help to make a real difference to grass root voluntary and community groups within a mile of our hotel.  

"The campaign has provided great PR opportunities, as well as recognition through social media including Forever Manchester’s 11,000 Facebook and Twitter followers, our websites and reciprocal opportunities. We are looking forward to including case studies about how we’ve made a real difference on the Forever Manchester website and which can also have prominence on our responsibility wall too."

How  effective have they been?

"Our work with Action Against Hunger has been incredibly effective so far," said Kossoff. "With the 50p donation from every Penne Jardineira sold, 25p came from Carluccio’s and 25p came from a small price increase. But the most important thing is that the customers feel that it’s not been a PR stunt or a business promoting mechanism, and that’s why it's worked so well."

Raw from Park Inn by Radisson Manchester added: "Our work with Forever Manchester has already created a conversation which was always our aim – we support their events getting additional footfall through our doors and I have recently been appointed as an Ambassador for the charity which really cements our commitment to them. "It reinforces our pledge to the charity, to our community and as a local hotel which constantly engages with the local community this can only stand us in good stead for building stronger relationships across the board moving forward."

Did it bring any benefits for the business?

"It's not about the benefits for the business," said Kossoff. "If businesses set out on this sort of thing for their own financial gain, they will fail. There is a glow around it, of course there is, but you can’t look at the effect it has on your sales. 

"The charities will try and say to businesses ‘if you put a donation on a dish it will sell more’ or ‘if you put it on a dish you’ll sell more desserts’, but I think that undermines the sentiment of it and your customers and your staff see right through that.

"If you do something that the customers and the team see through, you undermine the whole process. But if there’s a glow in terms of team-building and customer perception of the brand, then that’s great too."

Raw added: "For us, the adoption of a local charity is not necessarily about making more money for the hotel – it is about bringing our team together with a vision and passion for supporting something that is close to everyone and that can make a real difference in the community in which we operate.  

"We actually chose to donate 50p from the House Favourites because they are already our most popular dishes on the menu and so we knew we could effectively raise more money this way but yes, sales have also been boosted in this area which we believe is in support of the charity. 

"The 50p donation does affect our profits as it is not a discretionary donation but that was the decision and commitment we made to our corporate social responsibility agenda and to Forever Manchester and we look forward to making the first official ‘cheque presentation’ at the end of September."

Words of advice…

"First of all, don’t try and do this if you’re trying to make more sales," said Kossoff. "Do it because it’s the right thing to do.You have to make the whole thing real as well; with Action Against Hunger’s help we’ve been able to make it very real for our team with visits to Africa which we fund. As a result of those visits, we’ve made photo montages and we can talk about some of the people we’ve met in Africa by name. So the idea of making it real for the team is very important I think.

"We’re all forced to be desperately commercial in the current environment and you have to be if you’re running a business. But if the team can see that, in addition to being like that, you are honestly and seriously trying to drive the maximum fundraising you can manage then you can create a very effective balance."

Raw from Park Inn added: "I would encourage any business to ensure corporate social responsibility and charitable activity is placed firmly on their agenda.  The benefits to the chosen charities speak for themselves but from a hotel perspective, there is much more to it.  

"Yes, the potential for boosting sales is clear to see and yes, we tick the boxes for our CSR agenda which is wonderful, but it is the engagement with our guests, the creation of new fundraising ideas, fun events we can deliver and the overall ‘feel good factor’ that we see within our teams that we are confident maintains and boosts staff morale that makes it all so worthwhile."

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