Charitable contributions from the restaurant industry are estimated to amount to up to $3 billion annually, and more than nine out of 10 restaurants are actively involved in community service. To recognize these efforts, the National Restaurant Association is encouraging the nation's nearly 1 million restaurants to apply for its 2013 Restaurant Neighbor Award.

The NRA is also accepting nominations from individuals who have witnessed how restaurants support their communities, including patrons and employees.

The NRA and Restaurant Neighbor Award founding partner American Express developed the award to raise awareness about the restaurant industry's contributions in local communities. Application/nomination forms are accepted online at Restaurant.org/Community until Jan. 7, 2013. The NRA will also accept nominations through its social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter.

"Restaurateurs and their employees are heroes in local communities from coast to coast, but often don't get the recognition they deserve — we are trying to change that," said Dawn Sweeney, NRA president and CEO. "For the 15th year, we are recognizing their tremendous efforts and celebrating the ways in which they support their communities with our Restaurant Neighbor Award. We look forward to continue learning about all the great things our industry is doing, both from restaurants themselves and from the people they support."

Four national winners will each receive a $5,000 contribution to their charitable projects. The national winners will be presented the awards in Washington, D.C., in April 2013, and will be recognized on the NRA's website.

The Restaurant Neighbor Award honors charitable contributions in four categories (small business, mid-size business, large business/national chain and Cornerstone Humanitarian). Each participating state restaurant association will select winners in their respective states that will be in the running for the national award. The state winners will also be recognized on the NRA's website.

Read more about cause marketing efforts.

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