Community relations is about helping to solve society’s problems and for restaurant operators; it is becoming more important to build a positive reputation in the community and give back. Community relations includes organized volunteer programs, giving food, money, time and grants to nonprofit organizations and giving back to the community your brand serves.

Strategic Vision

Understand FIRST what your brand stands for. What is your strategic vision? Who or what will you help or save?

Cause Marketing Partner

Find those businesses or partners with the same philosophy.

Meet with their team and decide if the feeling is mutual.

Determine how you can combine efforts to create a partnership.

Community Relations

Develop co-branded unique promotions and events to raise awareness.

Create a plan, communicate, execute and analyze with your partner.

Donate time, energy, food, money, etc. to the cause along with your employees, friends, guests and partners.

Community involvement pays off for restaurants by:

• Attracting and retaining employees

• Increasing brand awareness and loyalty

• Initiating trial and frequency

• Generating positive buzz

• Boosting attractiveness as an investment

• Improved customer relations

• Increased sales

Community relations are best when restaurants partner with a socially responsible cause and organization. Together the organizations can create promotions and events which drive consumer awareness, trial and loyalty.

Give it a try!

Ingredients needed:

1. Your social vision

2. A pre-determined cause marketing partner

3. A plan, timeline and communications tools

Directions to follow:

• Determine the values of your culture, your business objectives and your stakeholders’ needs—answer: what do we stand for?

• Determine your strategic vision-who or what will you save or help?

• Determine the nonprofits or charities that are in your local area. Read their mission statements, accomplishments and stories. Make a contact sheet list with the names, numbers and addresses of those in charge. Sit down and decide which nonprofits or charities that would work well with your restaurant and make a few phone calls.

• Understand the financial commitment of time and money from the company.

• Pick a nonprofit that you feel strongly and care about in order to make a difference, inspire or connect deeper with their audience, not to increase sales or mend a crisis situation. Your consumers are smart and can quickly see through your insincerity, which can cause harmful repercussions in the long run if your actions are dishonest.

• It is also important to find a company that resonates with your restaurant’s consumer target. This often depends on your mission statement, your brand and the type of food you sell, all of which can help you determine the right match for your restaurant.

• Never expect short term results from a partnership with a nonprofit. Forming a strategic relationship is about building credibility over time, which is determined by the long-term commitment of money by your restaurant to the cause that you support. Develop a contract with the nonprofit in order to show that your restaurant is dedicated to their cause for a certain amount of time.

• Determine your community relations plan with your partner. Create a calendar of promotions, events and communications to get the word out about your efforts.

• Determine unique and branded promotions and events. Use your brand attributes—those things that make your restaurant different than competitors—and create activities and tactics which make the most of those.

• Communicate your vision through all customer touch points and focus on customer frequency and loyalty. Always incorporate what your brand stands for. This would include all point of purchase materials, menus, signage, check presenters, email blasts, website, direct mail, advertising and press releases.

• Communicate your message to the media and get credit for doing good. Write a joint press release with your cause marketing partner. Write and send out press releases to generate buzz before, during and after all events or programs, on-going.

Recipe from the book, Four Star Restaurant Marketing Cookbook—Recipes for Restaurateurs, written by Linda Duke, CEO of Duke Marketing, a full service marketing firm based in San Rafael, CA specializing in restaurant marketing for 25 years. Published in 2008.