How restaurants can support themselves and their staff with fundraising

Our best wishes go out to all who are dealing with this challenging situation. As COVID-19 continues to upend the hospitality industry, our community matters more than ever. In the coming weeks, we’ll highlight restaurants that are continuing to feed their communities, how diners are supporting their local restaurants, and what we’re doing to support the industry. Head here for OpenTable’s preparedness resource centre.

Restaurants across the U.S. are using sites including FacebookFundly, and GoFundMe to keep the lights on and support their staff. While new financial aid resources and relief, continue to be introduced for the industry at large, it’s helpful to have a dedicated place to collect money for your restaurant and employees. 

If you’re already incorporating revenue strategies such as selling takeout, gift cardsgroceries, or even your priciest bottles of wine, but you would like to learn more about other fundraising options, read on for inspiration and best practices from restaurants turning to the fundraising model. 

Set up a public fundraising page online

Countless restaurants have set up online fundraisers leveraging a variety of platforms. The key here is to add a description of your fundraiser and who will benefit from the funds. Many are using GoFundMe, including Boka Restaurant GroupState Bird Provisions, and Foreign Cinema. Other funding platforms restaurants are using include Spotfund, where New York’s Seamore’s has an ongoing support fund; Fundly, where Off the Grid is providing meals for grocery workers; and GiveSmart, where Make It Nice restaurant group is allowing donations as well as bids on a variety of items and classes for diners to enjoy. Note that platforms’ fees may vary.

Get creative with types of fundraisers

It’s helpful for contributors to know exactly where their funds are going. Tartine is taking a different approach by collecting money for CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) produce boxes. The goal is to provide weekly boxes to employees, whether laid off or currently working, while simultaneously helping local farmers and growers stay in business. Tartine’s current fundraising goal is $125,000. 

Chicago Tex-Mex restaurant D.S. Tequila has set up a “virtual tip jar” through Venmo. All contributions will be split among staff, and the restaurant plans to reopen with a benefit party—donors will get VIP entry. Similarly, Tipsy ATL is a site for people to give tips to restaurant and bar staff all over Atlanta. If you’ve been let go, you can submit your information to be added to the directory.

San Francisco Michelin-starred restaurant Mister Jiu’s is raising money specifically for furloughed employees’ health insurance, and funds raised after that initial $20,000 go toward operating capital to have once the restaurant opens back up. 

Give back to healthcare workers

Feed the Line started in the Bay Area to “feed a hospital worker, save a restaurant.” It allows donors to contribute any amount of money to the restaurant of their choice, which then delivers meals to healthcare workers on the front lines. Active restaurants include Causwells, Dumpling Kitchen, and Nopalito. 

Help Feed the Frontline LA is a similar community effort in Los Angeles in partnership with local restaurants and chef José Andrés’s nonprofit organization World Central Kitchen. It’s worth researching any organizations in your area that provide win-win opportunities for both restaurants and healthcare professionals.  

Get the word out about your fundraising efforts 

Once you’ve set up a fundraiser, the next best step is to share it far and wide. Many restaurants are adding the link to their Instagram bios and sharing frequently across their social channels and email marketing. Reach out to your regulars if you can; many of them might be eager to show support. NYC pasta restaurant Porsena raised over $15,000 from people on its mailing list alone. 

Additionally, restaurants on the OpenTable network can add their fundraising link to their OpenTable profile at no cost. Restaurants can drive awareness of their fundraising efforts by adding a fundraising page link to their restaurant profile, and OpenTable will promote those fundraisers across its app, and marketing beginning Monday, April 6. We hope our extensive diner network will help contribute to the financial health of as many restaurants as possible. 

Originally published on – 3 April.