The goal of a community outreach program for a restaurant is to engage with some part group of people in your neighborhood or city. Usually this outreach includes an educational or mentorship component, helps raise funds for a worthy cause, or is designed to make the area you life and work in a little bit better. One simple example of community outreach for a pizza shop would be delivering free pies to frontline healthcare workers as a gesture of appreciation for the work they do. While there’s no direct financial return for the generosity of the pizza owner, the act may could result in press coverage and patronage of the hospital staff in the future.

Simple gestures like these can bring people together around a common goal and be remembered by community members for years to come. Of course only one example of a restaurant reaching out to the community they serve.

While you shouldn’t expect something get something back each time you give, it does seem to work out that way a lot. According to the Non Profits Source, 90% of corporate giving showed working with nonprofit organizations boosted their business. This is a win-win situation wherein you’re helping others and enhancing your brand at the same time.

Outreach programs are more common than you might think in the food industry. One example of a company that focuses almost exclusively on advocacy partnerships through is Kona Ice. Kona’s main marketing strategy is to connect with local groups like youth athletic clubs and charities that need to fundraise. Kona Ice trucks show up at these community events and do a revenue share with different groups to help them raise money for things like new soccer uniforms or a charitable cause.

If you’re wondering how this marketing approach could work for your restaurant, here are the nine most practical community outreach ideas.

Offer Discounts

Offer rewards to your dream customers.

Discounts are a way to attract customers. But coupons don’t need to be the tired cattle calls available to anyone with a pulse. You can use these coupons strategically to attract the exact type of customer you want to support. According to INC, four out of five shoppers claim that they’ll make a purchase for the first time on brands that are new to them if the brands offered a discount. This makes first-time customers more eager to check out your restaurant if there’s a compelling reason like a discount.

Related Reading: 11 Best (No Cost) Restaurant Marketing Ideas

But since we’re talking about giving back to the community, you can use this marketing strategy by giving discounts to every day hero’s like veterans, military, healthcare workers, and teachers. Offering a special discount for people who hold these professions make them feel like invited to your establishment and appreciated.

But you don’t need to limit these discounts by profession. You can offer discounts based on your own personal interests or passions too. For example, you could extend free coffee to bicyclists or motorcyclists if those are the people you want to serve.

Charities

Partner up with charities.

Another option is partnering with a charity or a non-profit organization to market your food business. For instance, whenever a charity hosts a fundraising event, you could be the official caterer. You could also create lower cost menu to serve at zero hunger programs. Another idea is to assemble food gift boxes that could be consumed by the homeless community in your city. Your restaurant name will be remembered for your good deeds by volunteers, employees of the non-profit, and of course the individuals you’re helping out.

It’s also ideal if you partner up with charities that are under the same target market as yours. For example, if your target market is aimed at senior citizens that directly benefits this age group. Remember, everyone has a grandmother so extended families will also appreciate the work you do.

Open Your Restaurant to Meetup Groups

Offer your spot for free.

Another way to extend reach in the community and market your business at the same time is to offer your restaurant as a meeting place at no extra cost. You can invite clubs to host their monthly meetings at your cafe or have their small event held at your restaurant. This is an opportunity to demonstrate support for their cause while giving more people to opportunity to discover your restaurant.

If you’re not familiar with any clubs that require a meeting area, check out Meetup.com. This is a national website where small groups of like-minded people go to organize their meetings. You can find small groups of people interested in everything from cooking to Science fiction in your hometown.

While the meeting space can be offered free to guests, revenue will come from the food and drink sales during the meeting. It’s okay to make it clear to the spokesperson of meetup group that you expect guests to make a purchase in exchange for a comfortable meeting place.

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