Natural disasters and acts of violence have mobilized restaurant employees all over the country in support of devastated communities. Jose Andres, chef-owner of ThinkFoodGroup, activated his nonprofit to serve more than 350,000 meals in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. And in Las Vegas, restaurants offered comfort food and snacks to the victims of the Mandalay Bay shooting, first responders and blood donors. These restaurants are helping to fill real humanitarian needs in times of crisis.
However, creating an authentic culture of volunteerism all year can also ease some labor pains. In fact, one-third of millennials say their companies' volunteer policies affected their decision to apply for a job, and 55% say that such policies played into their decision to accept an offer, according to The Case Foundation’s 2016 Millennial Impact Report. And guess what? Restaurants can skip the shift drink, as 70% of survey respondents say that volunteering helps boost employee morale better than happy hours, according to a June 2017 study from consulting firm Deloitte.
Check out how some restaurant operators help motivate staff to volunteer, potentially boosting staff recruitment, engagement and retention.
1. Paying it forward
Most millennials think volunteerism provides an improved sense of purpose and that companies that sponsor charitable events provide more positive workplaces, according to the Deloitte study. On its career website, Denny’s lists volunteer hours as an employee benefit. The full-service chain offers its home office crew in Spartanburg, S.C., three paid volunteer days to spend with the nonprofit of their choosing. Restaurant managers can also take advantage of paid volunteer hours at company-owned locations.
2. Recognizing outside achievements
Wendy’s makes an effort to underline authentic brand values with its Community Ambassador Grant Program. Each year, the quick-service chain’s staff can apply for a $2,500 grant to give to an organization where they put in volunteer time, and one of the grant applicants receives an additional $10,000 for their organization. “We were excited to see a record number of employees nominate organizations for a Community Ambassador Grant this year,” Liliana Esposito, Wendy’s chief communications officer, said in a March news release. This year, 11 employees received endowments to give to organizations such as Little League Baseball, a camp for children battling cancer, museums, homeless shelters, food pantries and fire departments.
3. Coalesce around a common goal
This year, The Cheesecake Factory was nominated for a best practices award from research firm TDn2K, in part for its ability to foster volunteerism in its operations. The casual-dining chain focuses on tackling hunger in the U.S. during Hunger Action Month in September. Team members organize rummage sales, haunted houses and volunteer on Thanksgiving to feed more than 6,000 people. “We believe that by upholding this core commitment, we foster a sense of pride among our staff and managers,” a spokesperson for the chain told the researcher. “This sense of pride is a key element of our close-knit, family-like culture, which ultimately fosters a business environment in which we can excel at staff and manager retention, guest satisfaction and profitability.”
4. Make it easy
Panda Restaurant Group, the parent company of Panda Express, simplifies the volunteer process for workers. Team members are encouraged to work with the group's Panda Care Foundation, a philanthropic division of the company. PRG gives staff the choice to donate a portion of their paycheck to a local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, and more than 90% of associates participate annually. “The focus on giving provides our associates a sense of purpose beyond their jobs,” says Thien Ho, Panda Express’ director of corporate communications. “It also provides each Panda associate the opportunity to live into our mission of inspiring better lives.”