Why Your Restaurant Needs a Social Mission

Serving more than food or a cup of coffee can nourish your community and the lives of you and your staff.

The millennial generation has become the main startup engine for new restaurants. This generation values doing business with companies that care for the world we live in and the people in it. That’s one reason we’re seeing an increase in restaurants and other businesses that give back to their communities. 

If you own or manage a coffee shop, bakery, or restaurant, or if you’re thinking about opening one, you may want to consider supporting a social mission. Serving more than food or a cup of coffee can nourish your community and the lives of you and your staff.

A restaurant owner/manager has a lot going on, whether they’re opening a new store or managing an existing one. From how to get more people in the door to managing staff schedules to food safety, their job is never done. One thing that often gets overlooked—but shouldn't—is the value of making a connection and an impact in the local community.

The Data Behind the Trend

Millennial Marketing recently found that 50% of Millennials are more willing to make a purchase when their purchase supports a cause. And it’s not just Millennials who support social causes. A recent survey conducted by Deloitte of business leaders and HR professionals found that “citizenship and social impact” were rated critical or important by 77% of the respondents.

Supporting your community feels good, of course, but it also gives your staff something to be proud of and share with your customers. Small independent restaurants and multi-location operations can produce a significant impact when they focus their time and energy on the organizations that matter most to their teams and communities.

There’s no better feeling than making a difference in your community and in the lives of others. Having a focus, and sticking to it, will help you and your staff get behind a cause and start to create real change.

Focusing Your Efforts Will Pay Off

Marketing research firm Toluna recently surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults and found that younger consumers expect more than a donation to charity; they expect brands to have a corporate responsibility platform. It should always feel good to make a donation and help your community, but is there a way to make a bigger impact? Think creatively. Where can you focus your charitable time and efforts? And remember, not all help is necessarily monetary.

You Will Make a Difference—Every Day

Restaurant owners interact with hundreds of people on a weekly basis. Not only are you in tune with the people who dine in your restaurant, but you’re connected to other business owners and community leaders. Through these connections, you may start to notice a growing community need or a charitable cause that you’d like to support. 

Established in 2010, The King’s Kitchen, in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a public restaurant that uses 100% of its profits and proceeds to feed the poor in Charlotte. Minister and restaurant owner Jim Noble also works with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Dream Center on “The Restoration Program,” a five-part training program that helps employ, train and minister to the homeless, poor, troubled youth, rehab graduates and others who need employment. Two passions collided in the mission of The King’s Kitchen—serving food and serving God.

Inspired by a magazine article about The King’s Kitchen, Vicky Ismael and Jim Freeze launched Carroll’s Kitchen in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2016. The nonprofit social enterprise restaurant is creating opportunities for single homeless women by empowering them through job training, life skills and housing. The endeavor has been such a success, Carroll’s Kitchen is opening a second location inside Raleigh’s Morgan Street Food Hall in July.

Creating an L3C Structure

While The King’s Kitchen and Carroll’s Kitchen are both 501c3 nonprofit establishments, you may decide that an L3C Structure makes more sense for you. Created 10 years ago in response to a growing number of socially responsible companies, the L3C business structure is a hybrid form of a limited liability company (LLC) and a 501c3. In an L3C, or low-profit company, companies can make a profit of one to 10%, but the profits are secondary to the company’s social purpose. The creation of the L3C structure has helped socially responsible companies secure more private investments since the profits they do make can go toward investors. Find out more about L3C structures here.

Getting the Word Out

Choosing a social mission for your restaurant is not about being on trend. Social missions should never be considered a way to increase publicity or gain more customers. How can you share your social mission with your customers and your community without overpromoting and coming across as insincere? The best way is to share your story. Everyone can appreciate the story behind why you’ve chosen to support a cause. Additionally, try sharing the stories of those who you help. Do you have access to share success stories or interview those in need who have been helped through your program? The community visiting your website and social pages will enjoy seeing that the work you do is making a change. Sharing your story could inspire a spark of hope or motivate someone to reach out for help.

There are hundreds of wonderful charities and causes that need your assistance. As a local restaurant operator, remember that you can make the most impact by exploring the needs of your own neighborhood first. 

Whatever your mission and your reason, choosing to concentrate on one mission over many will help you and your business make a greater impact on your community in the long run.


This article is published on BrandPoint and was published simultaneously in several large-circulation media outlets including Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle Online, SF Gate, My San Antonio, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, Sun-Sentinel, San Diego Union Tribune, Seattle PI, CT Post, Times Union, Hartford Courant, Morning Call, Daily Press, and Beaumont Enterprise.