Now serving: Charity

We recently took part in MacMillan’s Coffee Morning – a charity event that across the UK raised over £20 million. It’s been supported by Marks and Spencer for nearly 10 years, with a range of cakes sold in their stores and profits of over £13 million donated. Food has a great ability to forge ties across communities and its relationship with fundraising is nothing new. Pret A Manger has given away unsold food at the close of trade, every single day since 1986. This began with sandwiches to the homeless on the streets of London and by 2018 has seen over 3 million meals donated through their 300 outlets.

Whilst these worthy activities continue, we were left questioning what might happen to this scheme if catering management software can eliminate wastage? Whilst food business Pret continues to donate through ‘The Charity Run’, they’ve answered our question with the addition of other streams under their registered Foundation. These include job training and sending their chefs off to help in hostels.

Fast-food giant McDonalds perhaps foretold the risks and rewards of keeping charity separate to product, with the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Now 45 years old, its principal operation continues to provide hotel-style lodging for guardians of children in hospital. Here, their restaurants and customers are a vehicle for fundraising without any lean across their evolving catering offer (could a 1940’s American burger chain have predicted a McCafé concept launching in 1990’s Australia?).

Who benefits?

If your food business is considering a charitable venture, we’ve listed the three main benefits your brand might experience when aligning with a cause.

1. Corporate social responsibility
The Journal of Business Ethics claims the pillars of CSR as ‘self-regulation; beyond compliance’ and ‘sacrificing profits’ – all for ethical and philanthropic reasons. The success of a policy reflects on the community it’s designed to serve.

Consider an organic takeaway brand sponsoring a beach clean-up charity. With the right approach (such as incorporating CSR into procurement strategies) a business can balance community values and promote a point of difference in their products. Also consider the benefits toward your internal communications. By designing a system of transparent choices, you create an inclusive system where staff opinions are considered – including means of funding, transferable skillsets, short and long-term impacts. It can lead to morale boosts across your estate. These social initiatives often lend themselves to responsible products, volunteering, and ‘behaviour change’ marketing.

2. Marketing
Supporting a charity amply satisfies the four foundations of restaurant marketing;

– Product: For a food business it can be an easy way to research product development and potentially expose new markets (e.g. M&S’ mini Colin cakes were sold as a ‘special makeover’). With a charity partner linked to an exclusive dish, it can offer a stronger sell-through than placing trust in a promotion (you can see this in action with Pizza Express’ Padana pizza).

– Place: What better excuse for a pop-up as you take your products on the road. Brand activation remains a serious business as it provides advertising, customer feedback and location research.

– Price: Sales based on charitable actions can be a test bed for pricing strategies. New customers will ‘vote with their feet’ as they share perceptions of value versus price points.

– Promotion: Much like the principals of ‘place’, promotion tied to charity can increase visibility for your brand and products/services and gather improved recognition and reputation.

3. Tax
If you’re a Limited company, your hospitality business can pay less Corporation Tax when it donates to a registered charity. Not only money, but everything from products to your staff’s time. Donating anything from dining furniture to kitchen machinery (which can depreciate rapidly) may help your bottom line.

If you like our ethics topic, you’ll love our posts ‘Pay what you want, honestly’ and ‘Ten laws that promote food ethics’.

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