Count the restaurant industry among 'the helpers'

April 19, 2013 | by Alicia Kelso
Count the restaurant industry among 'the helpers'

While many of us have been anxiously — and helplessly — glued to Twitter and news feeds reporting from Boston, plenty of stories about heroism have emerged from Monday's Marathon bombings.

There's the guy in the cowboy hat, who lost one son in the Iraq war and another to suicide, who rushed to aid the victims immediately after the first bomb went off. There's Jeff Bauman, who lost both of his legs during the bombings, yet who was able to garner enough strength and lucidity to help authorities identify the culprits from his hospital bed.

Of course, there are the thousands of first responders — those born with an instinct to run toward danger, rather than away from it; those still sleeplessly patrolling the streets of an eerily empty town, not having any idea what awaits them at the end of their search.

There are also stories beginning to surface about another type of heroism — not life-saving sort of heroics, but rather spirit-lifting heroics.

There are people sharing every news nugget every chance they get via social media in an attempt to help authorities expedite justice. There are runners in every city across the U.S. forming impromptu routes in honor of Boston Marathon participants. There are therapy dog groups that have been deployed to Boston to cheer up its residents.

And there is the restaurant industry.

Service-oriented by nature, restaurant employees have been stepping up as best as they can to ensure Bostonians are taken care of.

Boston-based boloco tapped the Back Bay Cycling Team to help deliver food to emergency officials on Newbury Street earlier this week.

And news reports surfaced today claiming that the Watertown Dunkin' Donuts restaurant stayed open specifically to serve first responders and law enforcement free coffee and food while they combed through every nook and cranny of a locked down, terrified city.

In true Boston spirit, the brand's parent company Dunkin' Brands has already written a hefty check to support bombing victims, and intends to continue that fundraising effort.

Unfortunately, the Marathon bombings weren't the only tragedy to happen this week. On Wednesday, a Texas fertilizer plant exploded, killing at least 12 people and injuring scores more.

In response, Texas burger restaurants are coming together to raise funds for those affected. Chef Kenny Mills of Chop House Burgers, along with Wheeler Advertising, have launched the Burgers 4 West campaign.

The fundraising effort is designed for an unlimited number of burger restaurants to collect donations for the community of West, Texas, which bears very little resemblance to the pre-explosion West, Texas. On April 28, participating establishments are requested to donate proceeds from burger sales during the course of their respective events.

Participants are also encouraged to engage their social media channels using the hashtag #burgers4west to help promote and create uniformity for the campaign.

Current contributors include Chop House Burgers and The Grease Monkey of Arlington. More are anticipated to join the effort and all funds raised will go to the Salvation Army for victims of this tragedy.

These two examples are a drop in the bucket. Restaurant brands always leverage their broad consumer bases to mobilize charity efforts immediately following any crisis — be it a "super storm" (like this Wendy's franchisee) or a child stricken with cancer (such as this local fundraising effort from Papa John's).

As the Boston dust cleared on Monday, a popular quote from Fred "Mr." Rogers went viral: "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"

In my opinion, the restaurant industry can most certainly be counted among "the helpers."

Topics: Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Operations Management, Social Responsibility

Alicia Kelso
Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with, and has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, and Franchise Asia magazine. View Alicia Kelso's profile on LinkedIn

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