Choosing a suitable charity is important, the panelists agreed. Gordon advised using as much diligence when researching charities as when negotiating with vendors. He suggested speaking with others who had worked with those organizations, making sure they’re financially stable and that the funds they’ve raised have gone to where they said they would.

He said The Cheesecake Factory spent up to six months researching Feeding American before partnering with the charity.

Samuelsson also advised checking on the board members of organizations you choose to support, a subject he returned to as the conversation shifted to how nonprofit organizations can help restaurant partners.

Dolinsky pointed to Shake Shack, which gave vouchers for free milkshakes to people who donated $2 or more to Share Our Strength. The high redemption rate brought more guests to the restaurants, Dolinsky indicated.

Murphy agreed that it makes sense to see how a charity can help you. “Our business is all about getting asses into seats. If a charity can help you do that, it’s a win-win for everyone,” he said. Ideally, those partnerships raise awareness of both the charity and the restaurant.

Samuelsson suggested asking board members of charities you support to patronize your restaurant on their own. “I think that’s a fair trade,” he said.

He also said that organizations such as C-CAP, which can improve the job prospects of people whose options might otherwise be limited, change potential problems into good employees. “Young kids can either cook for you or steal your car,” he said.

Gordon said that The Cheesecake Factory’s charitable work is part of what the company is, and as a result helps with engagement and retention with employees. Although the company doesn’t overtly talk much about its charitable acts, “it’s amazing what gets picked up on social media.”

Read this article at sister site Nation's Restaurant News