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The Week in Ideas, September 9, 2011

The industry was feeling charitable this week, with two big ideas to give back to charities. Yum! looked longingly at food stamps. And a Richmond, Virginia, restaurant rises again.

Idea #1: There is such thing as a free lunch. California restaurant owner Bruno Serato had a contest this summer to give away 12 high-priced luncheons at his White House Restaurant to charities. The charities would use them as fundraisers. Well, something happened on the way to giving away 12 luncheons. Serato felt a tug on his heart strings. "The first application was from an organization for children with brain injuries — and I thought, there's a winner," Serato told NBC News.

"The next was for children without parents and without tutoring. Before I knew it, there were 50 that were deserving, then 100. All of these applications just so touched my heart that I had to give more."

In the end, Serato gave away 200 luncheons, priced at $800,000 total.

Idea #2: There is such thing as a free lunch (redux). The economy is a drag. There may be a double dip recession. Restaurants need to boost customer counts. Hey! Let’s let customers use food stamps! USA Today reported this week that Yum! Brands is lobbying to expand the food stamp program to allow more restaurants to accept them. Right now Arizona, California, Florida and Michigan allow it. From 2005 to 2010 food stamp benefits increased from $28.5 billion to $64.7 billion.

Idea #3: Try, try again. You think Hurricane Irene damaged your restaurant? Two days after Mike Britt’s Richmond restaurant, the Mallory, was supposed to open in a renovated house boat on the waterfront, Irene ripped through town and sunk the restaurant. Undaunted, Britt, a team of divers and a couple of cranes worked through the week to raise her. After several failed attempts, Mallory was finally got back on the dry side of the water line. Britt and his wife were surveying the damage and, weather permitting, plotting their return.

Idea #4: Will work for pizza. Earth-friendly Pizza Fusion has joined forces with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless as the first business the group has wrangled to provide a work program for the homeless. All 23 employees of Pizza Fusion’s Denver outlet are CCH clients. “Their goal is to save the Earth one pizza at a time,” said John Parvensky, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless president. “Our goal is to end homelessness one person at a time.” 

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