The business case for No Kid Hungry

As Dine Out for No Kid Hungry, one of the restaurant industry’s big charitable campaigns to fight childhood hunger, kicks into high gear this month, its feel-good benefits are well publicized. But as every restaurateur knows, running a profitable business isn’t only about following your heart—it’s about making decisions that ultimately benefit the top and bottom line.

“There are true business benefits to being involved with No Kid Hungry,” Jim Vinz, co-CEO of LeDuff, parent of Le Madeline, Mimi’s Café and Bruegger’s, and spokesmen for Share Our Strength (the group behind No Kid Hungry), told a group of restaurant executives at the Restaurant Leadership Conference. The first two are self-evident, Vinz said:

1. Guests appreciate community involvement, and your business gets credit for it.

“We all know the restaurant industry does an outstanding job in community involvement,” Vinz said. “For a living, we feed people, so it only makes sense that as an industry that we should lead the charge in feeding those less fortunate.” When you explain the issue and explain how it can help, he adds, guests are happy to fund that, and staffs are happy to push that information out there and get engaged with guests and the community.”

When Bravo Brio restaurant group rolled out its No Kid Hungry campaign last September—a program it says it conceived and launched within one week—it generated $108,000 from its guests for the charity. The ask: customers were urged to donate $5 when they got their bill and, in return, donors received a $5 coupon off their next purchase of $15 or more. The restaurant group also vowed to donate $1 for every Facebook “like” (up to $5,000). The effort boosted its followers by 4 percent for the Brio concept and by 5 percent for Bravo.

2. Employee engagement goes up, because staffs want to work for companies that give back

It’s common sense, Vinz said, but it’s also backed up by research. Studies show that socially conscious companies have a higher level of employee engagement, retain employees longer and have employees that are more engaged in their work because they believe in the company they’re working for. “They’re more loyal and they share that with the guest as well,” said Vinz. “So, you get credit from the community and employees—both ways to grow your business.”

Corner Bakery Cafe has reported that 90 percent of its employees said they “felt proud that ‘Corner Bakery in involved in my community’” (up from 62 percent before launching its No Kid Hungry efforts). And in the four years after launching its first No Kid Hungry campaign in 2008, management turnover at Corner Bakery was less than 25 percent and hourly turnover was less than 50 percent.

3. It drives incremental traffic.

Several brands Vinz has worked with have seen notable results in redemption of coupons or discounts or promotional activities, he said. “At Le Duff in the past year, we saw redemptions anywhere from 40 to 60 percent, driving some level of incremental traffic in the fourth quarter of each one of [our U.S.] brands, distinctly.” And companies that have further extended their efforts from a week to a month have seen a tremendous impact on funds raised and awareness raised, Vinz added.

From Sept. 25 through 30, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign will launch its “End it With Orange” surge, ratcheting up its messaging and encouraging consumers to dine out at participating restaurants and talk about the cause in social media. Restaurants interested in getting involved have a number of options, from initiating their own promotions to participating in local Dine Out events—which will continue well after September—to joining the conversation in social media (#NoKidHungry and #90meals) to raise awareness about the issue of childhood hunger.

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