Take great communal food that can be served en masse, add a segment of restaurateurs who are deeply passionate about their meals and their community, and you can start to get some real momentum going in the right direction.
A number of successful barbecue operations around the country are using their profile to raise awareness for great causes.
Mission BBQ, the Maryland-based operator closing in on 50 locations in 11 states, prides itself on smoky meats and honoring American heroes. The chain was recently recognized with four medals for its efforts to assist veterans and community service organizations.
GreenZone Hero, an agency that works to raise the profile of veteran-focused businesses, recently welcomed Mission BBQ’s eight Florida locations into what they call the “veteran-friendly commerce community.” The agency said Mission BBQ is veteran owned and managed, employs veterans, hires disabled veterans and is a business that makes donations of time, money or other resources to organizations that serve veterans.
Mission founders Bill Kraus and Steve Newton are certainly patriotic. The list of organizations they offer time, service, fundraising and food to: USO, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Semper Fi Fund, Navy Seal Foundation, Honor Flight Network and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
“We believe there is nothing more American than BBQ. And nobody more American than the brave men and women who have sworn to protect and serve our communities and our country,” says co-founder Bill Kraus. “We do what we do for the love of our soldiers, firefighters, police officers, first responders—all our loved ones in service.”
Operation BBQ Relief
When a tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri, in 2011, competition BBQ teams from eight states came together and founded Operation BBQ Relief. In the community of about 50,000 residents, the teams helped feed displaced families, police, fire, National Guard and emergency personnel.
Operation BBQ Relief says they have served more than 1 million meals by way of fundraisers, online merchandise sales and donations.
The list of barbecue restaurants and organizations working together is long, and the donations of time, energy and great barbecue don’t go unnoticed.
Two Sides To Every Coin
Of course, restaurants cannot donate all their profits away, so you can’t say “yes” to every request.
Dozens of requests a week for monetary donations can be overwhelming, and it boiled over for one Charleston City Paper contributor, who declared: “no free lunch.”
“This expectation that restaurants are an open door for charitable giving has got to stop,” writes Angel Postell in the Charleston City Paper. “First, most of the charities requesting items are probably making more money than the restaurant they are soliciting.
“Too many charities are convinced a chef station model is going to guarantee ticket sales, so everyone is doing it. The truth is, the model is stale and chefs are burnt out doing events week after week outside of their kitchens,” she says.
There’s definitely a middle ground. Postell suggests working with organizations that are willing to do the following:
- Take some time and get to know your business before asking for a donation.
- Ask about what you want to support.
- Come with an outline of options.
- Patronize the restaurant.