Fundraising with Restaurant Nights (Oh What a Night!)

Written by:
Fundraising Guru
Fundraising with Restaurant Nights (Oh What a Night!)

Many restaurants offer nonprofit groups a popular way to fundraise with “Restaurant Night” fundraisers.

Here’s how it works: The restaurant gives your group a percentage of the sales on a designated night for all the customers that your organization brings to their business. Most of the time the restaurant will limit your available nights to a week night- usually one their slow nights.

A restaurant night fundraiser requires virtually no planning and very little investment from your group; and that’s why it’s one of the ideal types of fundraisers for small groups. If the restaurant requires a flyer or coupon to be presented for your group to receive credit, it will often print those up themselves.

Fundraising with Restaurant Nights

Why does a restaurant participate and even encourage this type of fundraiser?

  • It makes the restaurant look good. Giving back to the community enhances their corporate image.
  • It fills the restaurant on a slow night.
  • It introduces people to the restaurant that might not visit otherwise.

What kinds of restaurants hold restaurants night fundraisers? Almost every kind:

  • Applebees
  • Arby’s
  • Baja Fresh
  • Big Boy
  • Black-Eyed Pea
  • Boston Market
  • Burger King
  • Carl Jr’s
  • Chevy’s Mexican Restaurants
  • Chick-fil-A
  • Chipotle
  • Chili’s
  • CiCi’s Pizza
  • Culvers
  • Fresh Choice
  • Friendly’s
  • Fudruckers
  • Jack-in-the-Box
  • Jersey Mike’s
  • KFC
  • La salsa Fresh Mexican Grill
  • Loco’s Deli
  • Maggie Moo’s
  • Max & Erma’s
  • McAlister’s Deli
  • McDonalds
  • Mongolian BBQ
  • O’Charley’s
  • Outback Steakhouse
  • Panera Bread
  • Papa Murphy’s
  • Pizza Hut
  • Pizzeria Uno
  • Ponderosa
  • Rio Bravo
  • Sonic
  • Sweet Tomatoes
  • Subway
  • Taco Cabana
  • Tortuga’s
  • TRU
  • Wendy’s
  • Zany Brainy

Be aware that although many chain and franchise restaurants are available for fundraising, the decision to do so is up to the individual restaurant operator. And terms of the fundraiser will vary from restaurant to restaurant, even within the same chain and city sometimes. Some may make you present a coupon, tell the waitress in advance, drop receipts in a box, or order only certain things on the menu to qualify.

Many locally owned restaurants are also eager to host your restaurant night fundraiser too. Don’t forget to add them to your potential list of restaurants to call on. They often will offer you a better deal than the chains and franchisees.

Any restaurant that you, or a member of your nonprofit group, have a personal connection to via the owner, operator, manager, or worker also may offer you a better deal.

How to hold a successful restaurant night fundraiser

The secret to having a successful restaurant night fundraiser rests with you. You must advertise the event to your members and make sure they show up. Ensure a large turnout by asking your members to encourage fam

Fundraising with Restaurant Nights

ily and friends to attend the restaurant night too.

Many restaurants will allow your members to work behind the counter during your restaurant night. This can be especially effective for schools when the familiar faces of teachers, staff, and administrators are encouraging your members to spend more by upgrading to a special meal or add a desert to their order.

Sometimes the restaurant will allow you to set up an area to inform the public of your cause and solicit donations via a donation box by the cash register. A popular method is to ask customers to donate the change they receive back from their meal purchase to your cause.

What to look for when soliciting restaurants for a restaurant night fundraiser.

There are many variables to consider when choosing a restaurant to host your fundraiser:

  1. What percentage will our group receive? Local restaurants tend do donate higher percentages while chains and franchises trend toward the low side. Usually the range is between 10 and 25%.
  2. What day or days are available? Some local restaurants will agree to a week long promotion, but usually it is limited to one day or night.
  3. What hours are available? Obviously the more hours available the more potential for income.
  4. Is it limited to just my group? Or will we receive a percentage from everyone who dines during our time period?
  5. If take out or drive through is available will we receive income from these sales?
  6. Can our members work behind the counter or as “celebrity servers”?
  7. Can we set up an informational display and solicit funds during our restaurant night?

A restaurant night is a very popular fundraiser for small groups like school PTO/PTAs, scout groups, sports teams, and other groups with a good size member base but few volunteers. While the potential for large profits from this fundraiser aren’t very likely it can provide a steady source of income for your group with very little effort. And this discretionary spending by members of your group won’t affect the regular fundraising dollars they give.

Just think of how many times your family eats out each month. If you could hold a restaurant night fundraiser or a fundraisers for small groups once a month during the school year the money could add up. Make sure to rotate your restaurants for the best results.