| Danny Meyer was among the recipients of the NRA’s Restaurant Neighbor Awards |
Recognizing the restaurant community for outstanding community service efforts, the National Restaurant Association recently presented the winners of its 2010 Restaurant Neighbor Award at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
With a backdrop of the Potomac River the board members of the NRA met the recipients of this year’s awards and likewise saw their inspirational stories played out in video.
The winners are: Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, headquartered in Greenwood Village, Colo., with locations nationwide, in the large business category; Farrelli’s Wood Fire Pizza in Tacoma, Wash., in the mid-size business category; UNION Restaurant and Bar Latino in Haverstraw, N.Y., in the small business category; and Danny Meyer, chief executive of Union Square Hospitality Group in New York City in the Cornerstone Humanitarian category. The winners each received a $5,000 contribution to their initiative. American Express is the founding partner of the Restaurant Neighbor Award.
‘Community service comes naturally to our industry, and we are so pleased to present some of the most inspiring examples of philanthropy with our Restaurant Neighbor Award,’ said Dawn Sweeney, NRA’s president and chief executive. ‘Restaurants make a difference in local communities across the nation by supporting local initiatives and national causes. These restaurateurs and staff members have shown tremendous dedication and innovation when it comes to helping their neighbors and fellow Americans.’
Each participating state restaurant association selects winners in their respective states that compete with winners from other states for the national award.
Here is a peek behind the curtain on why these award winners stood out.
Being a good neighbor goes hand-in-hand with the enthusiastic company culture at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. ‘Unbridled Acts’ is a long-held philosophy of performing random acts of kindness that extends to all team members in the casual dining chain’s more than 430 restaurants. Projects have included the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), Special Olympics, and the National Fire Safety Council. Red Robin also has an annual Kids’ Cook-Off, where children submit ideas for burger recipes, one of which is added to the restaurant’s menu with a portion of the proceeds going to support NCMEC.
The company has also been active in school projects, including helping middle schools reduce bullying through its U-ACT Program. Since 2005, Red Robin has donated more than $2 million to youth-related organizations that support health, safety and education.
Located in Tacoma, Wash., the Farrelli’s Wood Fire Pizza chain celebrates military personnel with weekly discounts and parties before they deploy and return from overseas. It also provided gear and décor to troops overseas so they could turn their break room into a satellite Farelli’s.
Farrelli’s has raised more than $150,000 for organizations including the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the Boys and Girls Club. It also responds to customer ideas when it comes to projects to support. A young man with diabetes inspired a diet-customized pizza being added to the menu, and the restaurant’s participation in a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation fundraiser.
The Haverstraw, N.Y., UNION Restaurant, which serves Latin-fusion cuisine, opened in 2007. Its owners, Paulo Feteira and Chef David Martinez, wanted to help families who were struggling to make ends meet because of the recession. Employees jumped behind the idea and volunteered their time for three days, as the restaurant fed more than 3,000 people at the first ‘1, 2, 3 — It’s Free!’ event in February 2009.
The event is now an annual affair and one of several projects for the UNION’s ‘We Care’ Foundation. The restaurant also supports community organizations and breast cancer research projects, and created a rooftop garden to teach schoolchildren the benefits of eating locally grown produce.
For Danny Meyer, the restaurant business, hospitality and community are intertwined. Caring about staff members and the communities around his restaurants has helped grow Union Square Hospitality Group into a successful enterprise with 25 entities. Over the past two decades, Meyer and his restaurants have focused on hunger relief (including Share Our Strength events), local education, parks and revitalization. The company’s all-employee Community Council puts into action service projects in New York and beyond. Employees have prepared weekly meals for patients and families at a local hospice, helped rebuild a historic restaurant in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and restored a park in Washington, D.C.
‘American Express is proud to partner with the National Restaurant Association to honor the contributions restaurateurs across the country make to their communities,’ said Curtis L. Wilson, Vice President and General Manager, Restaurant and Lodging Industries, American Express. ‘Through charitable gifts of food, time, and resources, restaurants have a tangible and lasting impact on their communities; we hope these actions inspire others to do the same.’