The awards seek to recognize and honor the generosity of the restaurant and foodservice industry, whose philanthropic pursuits and community involvement is considerable. Nationwide, restaurants charitable contributions are estimated to up to $3 billion annually, and more than nine out of 10 restaurants are actively involved in community service.
The recipients are national finalists for the National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Neighbor Awards. The winners are:
- Universal Studios Hollywood (Universal City)
- El Pollo Loco (Costa Mesa)
- Jamba Juice (Emeryville)
- Black Bear Diners (Redding)
- Cohn Restaurant Group (San Diego)
- Daphne's California Greek (Carlsbad)
- Canter's Fairfax (Los Angeles)
- Baker's Burgers (San Bernardino)
- SoCo Hospitality Group (Santa Rosa)
- The Reef (Long Beach)
"We are proud to claim each and every one of these exemplary California-based companies that put their communities first every day," CRA President + CEO Jot Condie said. "It's a testament to the industry that stories like these are not rare, but these in particular take their commitment to philanthropy very seriously, and they're making a big difference."
At the popular Universal Studios Hollywood, the charity of choice is Discover a Star, which support Los Angeles homeless shelters and family stay facilities. Each year through a golf tournament, silent auction and private dinner for 16, the company raises more than $600,000. Eric Kopelow, who is the vice president and corporate executive chef, is actively involved in the drive. The company also holds an annual day of giving where management volunteers at local organizations, a Christmas in Spring event when staff bring toys and gifts to a nearby shelter, and a Christmas dinner for the less fortunate.
El Pollo Loco Charities, the philanthropic arm of the popular brand, focuses on providing support directly to the neighborhoods that are served by its restaurants, through charities such as CASA Orange County and Children's Institute Los Angeles that are dedicated to helping children and their families who are victims of abuse, neglect and community or domestic violence. Raising funds through a host of events El Pollo Loco also supports Habitat for Humanity, Reading to Kids, Precious Life Shelter, ABC Foster Family Agency, Pacific Clinics, Elsinore First Assembly and Special Needs Network.
In 2009, Jamba Juice partnered with the National Garden Association to launch its Garden Grant Awards Program, which the company has contributed more than $30,000 toward. The grants go to schools where students are most in need. The company also worked to develop a comprehensive education program for youth, teaching the importance of health eating and physical activity through gardening.
For the last five years, Black Bear Diners have embraced Make-A-Wish, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, as the charity of choice. A month-long, systemwide effort typically raises more than $125,000, with all proceeds staying in the local communities. Throughout December, for instance, each customer who purchases a pie, cake or cobbler will see a $1 donation go to Make-A-Wish. The drive, called "Save Room For A Wish," also enables guests to purchase a $1 or $5 wish star to help make wishes come true in their local community.
For more than 30 years, David and Lesley Cohn, founders of Cohn Restaurant Group, have made philanthropy an integral part of their company. Supporting such organizations as Balboa Park Foundation, Promises 2 Kids, San Diego Zoo, Project Wildlife, Epilepsy Foundation, UNICEF, The Old Globe, San Diego Air & Space Museum, Big Brothers & Sisters, Make-A-Wish, among others, the team has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. Since 1996 the Cohns have made the Garfield High School Foundation, which was co-founded by Cohn Restaurant Group, a priority. In 2012, more than $16,000 was raised at a benefit luncheon for the foundation, which was formed to raise funds for the culinary arts program at Garfield High School, an alternative continuation school in downtown San Diego.
With an eye toward helping San Diego County boost its literacy rates, Daphne's Greek Restaurants works with 52 school districts serving more than 500,000 students. For the last four years, company has actively supported a the summer literacy program by donating bookmarks and achievement awards for reading programs at city libraries. The bookmarks are redeemable for a free kids meal at any Daphne's location and in 2012 the chain donated 1,499 bookmarks that were redeemed for about $7,500.
With its delicious array of pastries, rolls and breads, Canter's Fairfax has been actively involved with local homeless coalitions and food banks for more than 20 years. A Los Angeles institution for more than 80 years, Canter's supports veterans groups, schools, church and temple groups, active military and uniformed officers. The restaurant, which annually gives out gift certificates to numerous charities, also features an ongoing discount for all military and uniformed officers. "It is this act of giving back and community that has been our families' goal for over 80 years. We were brought up to never let anyone go hungry," said Terri Bloomgarden, vice president.
Baker's Burger, a drive-thru concept with 37 units, has been participating in an annual five-week Safe Halloween campaign each October, benefitting the Easter Seals Society of Southern California, which supports people with disabilities, and has raised more than $3 million since 1989. Sold for just $1 each, Safe Halloween booklets are packed with hundreds of dollars in free and discounted items valid year round. During last year's campaign Baker's, which has been operating for more than 60 years, raised $234,344.
SoCo Hospitality Group's restaurants look to the neighborhoods in which they serve to identify the best ways to give back. Its annual Gifts from the Heart event is a chance for employees to serve a meal to less fortunate residents in Sonoma County - incorporating a holiday toy drive and gifts of dental supplies, warm socks and blankets and free haircuts.
Every year, The Reef hosts the Salvation Army's Spirit of Giving event where underserved members of the community are treated to a warm holiday meal on Christmas Day. Las year, more than 1,850 meals were served. Guests also receive goodie bags filled with toiletries and hand-knit scarves. The Long Beach Fire Department also provides toys for all the children in attendance, as well as a visit from Santa Claus.The program started nearly 50 years ago at sister restaurant, Ports O' Call.
The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and Restaurant Neighbor Award founding partner American Express developed the award to raise awareness about the restaurant industry's contributions in local communities across the country and to inspire other restaurant owners and operators to showcase their enormous contributions in their communities.
About the California Restaurant Association: The California Restaurant Association is the definitive voice of the California restaurant and hospitality industry and has served to protect and promote its success since 1906. The restaurant industry is one of the largest private employers in California, representing more than 1.4 million jobs. Restaurants produce more than $58 billion in sales annually and generate more than $4.5 billion in sales tax for the state.