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QSR Feature
‘A Win-Win’
Charitable works help the community and keep your employees engaged.
Michaela Dean was among the hourly employees who received the S. Truett Cathy Scholarship Award in 2007.
Michaela Dean was among the hourly employees who received the S. Truett Cathy Scholarship Award in 2007.

When Bruce Kaplan needed to fill a position at one of his two Ben & Jerry’s locations in Portland, Oregon, he placed an ad on Craigslist, an online message board. He received an unprecedented 60 applications.

Of course the ice cream is good, but Kaplan thinks something larger is at work. “I screen a lot of the young people prior to bringing them in, and I [am] amazed how much they know about Ben & Jerry’s and what the company stands for,” says Kaplan, who has brought the corporate mission to store level, working with area schools to establish programs that reward reading comprehension with free ice cream. “It’s amazing how well-versed the applicants are and how we attract those that are involved in their local schools and in community activities.”

In its 2008 Industry Forecast, the National Restaurant Association noted social responsibility is one of the key areas of interest for employers. Simply put, social responsibility and community involvement attract potential customers and employees and builds employee morale, which aids retention.

‘A Win-Win Situation’

Social responsibility has been one of Starbucks Coffee Company’s guiding principles since the early ’90s.

“It is a win-win,” says Ben Packard, interim head of corporate social responsibility at Starbucks. “We’re able to help communities thrive through our philanthropic investments and volunteer efforts. At the same time, we’re making a positive impact on factors that drive the success of our business, including partner satisfaction, supply-chain relationships, customer loyalty, operating costs, and brand value.”

In 2000, the chain launched the Make Your Mark program, which rewards its employees for volunteering at local parks, animal shelters, and schools. For every hour volunteered by an employee, the chain donates $10, up to $1,000 total. In 2007, employees volunteered 320,000 hours. Starbucks donated more than $1.7 million to support 2,000 nonprofit organizations.

And it seems Starbucks’ generous nature is contagious. Each week, baristas get a free pound of coffee. Many donate their freebie pounds to military troops overseas.

“Partners in our Atascadero, California, store sent their personal weekly allotment of coffee to troops in Afghanistan so they would be able to enjoy a taste of home. And our customer relations department in Seattle donated hundreds of pounds of coffee to the sailors on the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier,” says Packard, noting the chain has donated more than 100,000 pounds of coffee to the American Red Cross for distribution to troops serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait.

Like Kaplan, Packard is discovering Starbucks’ community involvement is helping recruit the best employees.

“Corporate social responsibility is becoming increasingly important to applicants,” Packard says. “By offering partners the opportunity to become directly engaged in supporting community and global efforts, we believe we’re increasing their job satisfaction and fostering a culture that is committed to making a positive impact and giving back.”

Sixty-two percent of respondents age 18 to 26 said they would prefer to work for a company that provided them with the opportunity to apply their skills to a nonprofit, according to the 2007 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey. Yet just 30 percent of companies reported that they had a “compelling” program that encouraged volunteerism among employees. Clearly, there’s room for improvement. And with increased volunteerism comes an opportunity for operators toattract more of the age group they rely heavily upon to run their restaurants.

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