At Firehouse Subs®, the growing sandwich chain based in Florida, giving is as much a part of the corporate ethic as salami. Founded by brothers and former firefighters, Chris and Robin Sorensen, Firehouse Subs has built their business on great sandwiches and public safety.
To the Sorensen’s and their many franchisees, the two ideas are inextricably connected. In a very novel but magnanimous way, they have turned their restaurants into places “with the highest quality meats and cheeses and its commitment to saving lives through the creation of Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation®.” On their website and in other marketing, Firehouse Subs promotes its efforts via its “Supporting First Responders” program.
The Foundation, started in 2005, provides funding, life-saving equipment and educational opportunities to first responders and public safety organizations. Many first responders work with older equipment and struggle with limited and declining budgets. The Foundation has helped fill the gap, giving more $13 million to hometown heroes in 43 states and Puerto Rico in the past decade. These donations have benefited more than 1,000 public safety organizations in communities across the nation.
As Robin Sorensen said: “The Foundation is at the heart of Firehouse Subs, and we believe every donation is a heroic act.”
Such dedication to public service is rare in any business, but it is exactly the kind of selfless behavior that is a subtle but effective way of branding your business in your community. How can you not love a place that gives back so much to its local area? And the restaurant serves delicious food, too … it’s really a win-win.
There are a number of different approaches for businesses to share a portion of profits with charities. Ideas can range from providing money to the local sports team to supporting the local branch of a national charity to creating your own foundation. Also, you can explore online organizations, such as CharityDine, which allows customers to purchase discounts at their favorite restaurants while donating 15 percent of their purchase to a charity of their choice.
Here are five other ways restaurants can give back to their communities:
- What is your passion? Using Firehouse Subs as an example, you can align your restaurant with a charity, local or national, that fits your most inspiring interest. This could range from sustainable fishing to the American Lung Association. Whatever you choose, make sure to hook up with the organization so you can partner with their marketing and get the word out to your customers.
- Donate your time and experience by holding free cooking classes or going into local classrooms to talk to students about food, restaurants and running a business.
- Donate to community-wide events set up by local civic organizations. You can then receive publicity as a sponsor and promote your participation on social media or through advertising.
- Give to the local food bank. Hunger is a terrible thing and it permeates our society.
- Sponsor health awareness events or walk-a-thons that donate money to local charities. In this way you can promote health, nutrition or even the delights of gourmet cooking.
The main thing to remember is that you’re a part of your community and that if you help sustain it, it will help sustain you.