It’s often said that ‘charity begins at home’ and this rings true with the catering and hospitality business. After all, taking care of your staff will ensure operations run smoothly and aids in the success of the business. However, look beyond the superficial and discover that charity work not only benefits those who receive the funds, but also those who have helped to generate those funds.
Our fish and chip business has three large restaurants and four takeaways within Lincolnshire, so we manage a lot of different processes and customers on a day-to-day basis. Our first takeaway opened in 1988 in the village of Ruskington and this year, after 30 years in the county, we decided to raise £30,000 for three charities close to our hearts.
We knew from the start that this was going to be a challenging task, but we’ve always remained positive and hopeful that we will reach our fundraising target.
Adding the extra pressure to our everyday workload is tough but we have seen the benefits that charity work has on our team and our company over many years.
Charity campaigns are one of the most effective ways of cementing your reputation locally. It is easy to dismiss this viewpoint as cynical and greedy but becoming involved in the community around you has untold benefits. It has helped us to build a relationship with our customers and recognise their needs and preferences which in turn has helped us to better serve the community as a business.
Understandably, our trade has picked up after our charitable activities over the years. Back in the days when radio and TV advertising were king, we used to enjoy a very healthy trade off the back of local radio campaigns. Once this trade evaporated, we started to consider new and interesting ways of engaging with our community.
We have always been attracted to supporting charities; our counters are regularly groaning under the weight of collection boxes and promotional items and our walls are plastered with charity posters. We were always glad to lend a helping hand to staff and customers who were actively involved in helping others, but we knew we could do more as a company.
What followed has been unprecedented and we have helped to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds over the years. Most importantly, we have helped to transform people’s lives. As a result, we are well known locally and have even won awards for our work. The increased visibility and our enhanced reputation speak for themselves in the success of the business but knowing that we are fully integrated into the towns and villages that we serve makes it all worthwhile.
Campaigns over the years have come in many shapes and sizes, but here are a few highlights:
- Elite’s Christmas Wish: We started a campaign in December in 2015 to find out what people really wanted for Christmas. Customers could post their Christmas wish in our restaurant post boxes to be in with a chance of having their wish granted, with a £250 limit. The response we got was phenomenal. Among the many requests for holidays, fish and chips for life and other material things was an astonishing entry. One of our customers simply said that they wanted their grandfather to visit the war grave of his brother, who was killed and buried in Norway during the Second World War. Arthur Harrison, who has now sadly passed away, had never seen his brother’s grave. This immediately inspired us as a family to help him as much as possible and, even though it broke the £250 limit, we paid for Arthur and his family to travel to Norway. Arthur was able to see the barn where his brother was shot and see his helmet which had remained at the same site for years. Arthur was even the guest of honour at a parade in the town where his brother was laid to rest. This campaign was a huge hit, with national coverage and features in the Norwegian press too. We repeated the campaign the next year and achieved local press focus but the impact of ‘Arthur’s Wish’ as we call it, was incredible and long-lasting. We still have people coming in to talk to us about it now.
- £10,000 in 10 months: In 2016, we decided to raise as much as we could for The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal. We set ourselves a target to raise £10,000 in a year and hit that total easily in October. We had a pair of customers run the London Marathon (one dressed as a poppy!), fundraising campaigns via social media and two musical evenings with war-time singers belting out classics for an enthusiastic audience, on Armed Forces Day and at Christmas. We exceeded our target and off the back of this and our continued charity fundraising, won local, regional and national awards in recognition of our staff’s hard work. The publicity has been fantastic but the fact we could help so many armed forces staff in a county where many RAF bases and heritage sites stand was personally rewarding too.
- £30,000 for 30 years in business: To ramp up fundraising again, we decided to set our targets high to mark our 30th anniversary of being in the county of Lincolnshire. Ten thousand pounds is set to go to three separate charities; the RAF Association, the RNLI and Sleaford Dementia Support – a local charity which gives valuable support to families. This gives us the chance to thank the RAF Association for their hard work, the RNLI for protecting the public and the fishing trade and to help a new charity in a town that we serve.
If the benefits aren’t immediately obvious, then we can safely say that charity campaigns are much more than paying lip service to a benevolent company ethos. Charity campaigns give your business and your staff so much more than you can imagine. Not only do you and, perhaps more importantly, your employees get a fantastic feeling of satisfaction and team camaraderie from helping those in need, but they also help you raise your profile locally, regionally and nationally and establish your position in the local community.
By Rachel Tweedale, third generation fish frier at The Elite Fish & Chip Company