Restaurant News & Reviews

Dine-and-donate events a win-win for charities, restaurants

A tasty local trend is resulting in a steady stream of cash for schools and nonprofits – and a steady stream of new customers for restaurants.

“Dine-and-donate” events, in which charities send traffic to a given restaurant on a given night and the restaurants donate a portion of the proceeds to the charity, are becoming more and more common in Wichita.

The setup is a win-win, say those who participate. The restaurants get exposure and big crowds on normally slow nights, and the charities get a decent payout for relatively little effort.

“The great thing about this is that there’s really very little work involved,” said Jamie Opat, director of communications at Starkey Inc. “It’s really a very low-risk proposition.”

The list of restaurants putting on dine-and-donate events seems to grow all the time. Among regular participants locally are Il Vicino, Panda Express, Baskin Robbins, On the Border, Chipotle, Chili’s, Pizza Hut, Noodles & Company and Genghis Grill. The restaurants partner up with schools, sports teams or organizations such as the Kansas Humane Society, Sedgwick County Zoo, Heartspring, etc., and agree on a set time for a fundraising event – usually on a weeknight when the restaurant would otherwise be slow.

The organizations market the event to their supporters, distributing fliers that diners present when ordering. Restaurants save receipts and donate 10 to 50 percent of money brought in from people with fliers to the partnering organizations. Those groups, in turn, can count on $100 to $500 per event, depending on how many people they persuade to participate. Sometimes, the events are even bigger. In March, Chipotle wrote a $5,000 check to the Kansas Humane Society after an all-day event in which the restaurant donated 50 percent of money raised from people the nonprofit sent.

Many organizations set up smaller dine-and-donate events once or twice a month, and the money can add up.

Opat said Starkey only recently added restaurant events to its list of fundraising methods. The two it put on recently at On the Border and Pizza Hut brought in $450. Starkey also has partnered with Panda Express and has future deals set up with Genghis Grill and Chili’s. The organization’s goal is to organize two restaurant events a month.

Dine-and-donate events also are good for restaurants, said Allison Lambky, the general manager at the Il Vicino at 4817 E. Douglas.

She tries to set up partnerships on Monday and Tuesday nights and on Saturday afternoons and has standing dates with Robinson Middle School and Riverside and Hyde elementary schools. She’s also worked with the Southeast High football team and organizers of a charity golf tournament, among others. The Il Vicino events usually last for four hours, and the organization gets 20 percent of the receipts from people who brought fliers.

“It’s getting more trendy,” Lambky said of dine-and-donate events. “Everybody’s trying to give back, and it definitely gets us new customers.”