When on the receiving end of requests to host charity events, a clear strategy needs to be in place to determine the time to say yes, and when to steer well clear. By John Burfitt
The hospitality industry is well-renowned for fronting up at full force to support local charity organisations. Requests can run the gamut from donating food and wine, asking the head chef to conduct a cooking demonstration through to wanting the entire restaurant and meal supplied for free—all in the name of raising funds for a good cause.
Which can be important in terms of creating community goodwill, opening avenues for good networking and building a brand that promotes a sense of caring within the local community.
But when those charity requests arrive in a thick and fast flow, how to handle them is a dilemma.
Must be a win-win
No matter what the name behind the charity, requests must be managed in a thorough and comprehensive way, rather than awkwardly fearing ‘looking bad’ by not automatically agreeing to them, insists branding specialist Jon Michail of Melbourne’s Image Group International.
“This must be a win-win outcome for all the parties involved, and if not, it’s something you must walk away from,” he says. “The bottom line must be if anyone your business is dealing with does not appreciate what the real investment the chef and restaurant is providing for them, then you’ve got a problem and must question if this is something you want to be involved with.”
And yet, the value to the chef and the restaurant can be significant, according to the 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility study by US company Cone Communications. It reported customers have a more positive image (91 per cent), more trust (87 per cent), and more loyalty (87 per cent) towards businesses that support local social programs.
Michail believes hosting charity events is an excellent branding exercise in terms of visibility, awareness and exposure within the local community, but says a number of measures must first be applied.
“You need to get clear on all the expectations—yours and theirs,” he says. “You also need absolute guarantees all the media and coverage is delivered as promised. You also need to negotiate to email their database both pre and post events to make sure you are making the connections you need from doing this.”
What may initially seem like a good public relations exercise or networking opportunity must also be evaluated against whether the restaurant really wants to have its name associated with it, says David Wasserman of hospitality marketing consultancy Wasamedia.
“This has to be something you believe in or [you must] have a personal interest in the cause,” he says. “You need to pay attention to the reputation of the organisers, as well as who will be the audience of the attendees.
“We have seen a real spotlight on the brutal effect the industry can have on its workers, and what I’ve noticed in recent years is a solid increase to contribute to helping others both inside and outside the industry.”
All in the timing
There’s also the factor of timing, when the business might be having a quiet run and so a charity event can easily be fitted into the schedule. In busier times, such as during the end of year festive season, tougher scrutiny needs to be applied about the real value of being involved.
For all the good work being done for a worthy cause, restaurant management must ensure they do not get lost in the mix, Ken Burgin, Silver Chef’s community and events manager says. “Most chefs will often disappear into the crowd at these events, so make sure you have some control. Do your own promotion of your participation in the event, like with good posts on Instagram, Facebook, your website and also work with whoever is doing the publicity and find out the ways your chef can be well utilised through interviews and other coverage.”
Once the process of determining whether or not this charity warrants involvement is complete, you might decide to pass on the event, and that needs to be done as smoothly as possible.
David Wasserman insists this is not a time to go silent or ignore the organisers. “I’ve always found an honest chat with them does the trick,” he says. “Be really up front that you might like to be involved in the future, but this particular opportunity won’t work.”
Adds Ken Burgin, “You may get to a point when you run your own charity events and you make that your focus throughout the year. In that case it will be a cause the business personally supports, and so there’s a clear alignment there from the get-go. And you can manage how it is done all the way down the line.”