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April 15, 2016

Wisconsin Restaurants Honored with Restaurant Neighbor Awards for Excellence in Community Engagement

Culver’s of Darboy, The Fireside Dinner Theatre, Wisconsin Hospitality Group and Barkha Daily from The Cheel were selected as Wisconsin finalists for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s Restaurant Neighbor Award.

The national winners – chosen in from state awardees by a panel of restaurant and foodservice industry leaders from across the country – were honored at a restaurant and foodservice industry gala awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on April 12, 2016.

The Restaurant Neighbor Award, developed in partnership with American Express, celebrates the outstanding charitable service performed by restaurant operators throughout the U.S. Created 18 years ago, this award recognizes the impact restaurants and entrepreneurs have made on their local communities.

Wisconsin finalists did not win at the national level this year.

The 2016 Restaurant Neighbor Award finalists from Wisconsin are:

Small business category:
Culver’s of Darboy, Appleton
The crew at Culver’s of Darboy has always had a strong presence in their community, supporting numerous non-profit organizations. A special program is their annual Christmas Eve dinner which is put on solely by Culver’s of Darboy and has been held for the past five years. The restaurant hosts an invitation only dinner for community members in need. Closing down early so crew members can help prepare for the event, the restaurant re-opens its doors to welcome their guests. The guests are identified by local school social workers in their districts and invitations are extended. Families then contact the Culver’s office to make a “reservation” and at that time information is gathered about the ages and genders of the children in the family and their gift wish list. Children under 12 receive a present chosen based on that list while guests over the age of 13 receive a gift card to a local department store. All guests leave with a gift. For many of the families, it may be the only present they get during the holidays. The families are greeted by staff members (and their families) and Santa. The meal is a chicken buffet with all the fixings and a build your own sundae bar. All of the food is donated by Culver’s and each year approximately 300 people are fed. Staff has shared that they have witnessed parents and grandparents crying in relief and appreciation because they didn’t know how they were going to make the holidays special for their family. When departing the families also receive a bag of food to take home. This is a newer addition to the event, in response to the awareness that some of the families will struggle to feed their kids over the winter break. Crew members and their own families volunteer their time on Christmas Eve to make this dinner memorable. For many of them the event has become a highlight of their holidays. Seeing the joy on the guests’ faces is quite meaningful.

Medium business category:
The Fireside Dinner Theatre, Fort Atkinson
The Fireside Dinner Theatre and staff have a long history of raising funds for community events. Often this involves providing prizes for long-standing local events in the Fort Atkinson area. The business also concentrates their efforts on supporting one select charity in a very substantial way. For a decade that was The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Since 2010 their focus has been on Rainbow Hospice of Jefferson County. This partnership has proven to be very meaningful to their associates and funds raised have benefited the community directly. Rainbow Hospice serves a five county area in south central Wisconsin and assists patients with any type of life-limiting illness with a life expectancy of less than six months. Regardless of age, race, gender faith, ethnicity, insurance overage or economic status, all patients and their loved ones are treated with the same respect, kindness and concern with a focus on quality of life, maintaining comfort and dignity and providing support to each individual.

The Fireside was involved with making Rainbow Hospice’s dream of providing an in-patinet care facility a reality. The team’s first commitment was to raise $50,000 over a four-year period to sponsor a kitchen area (named The Fireside Oasis) in the family area for residents’ families to prepare and serve snacks and meals. Fundraising was achieved thourgh ticket sales to preview performances, in-house bake sales, donated tips, tailgate parties, a company-wide rummage sale, dedicated gift shop revenue and three annual 5K run/walk events in conjunction with the company picnic to name a few. To increase community involvement a quilt is made and donated each year for a raffle. Having reached their initial $50,000 goal, a new commitment has been made for a four-year, $100,000 goal to fund one of the patient rooms. So far, $44,000 toward that goal has been raised with a similar line-up of activities. Associates are involved in everything from planning and running the events to attending them. Future events in the planning stages include a bowling tournament and a change war between departments. Fireside is pleased this effort not only educates their staff about the importance of community service but gives them a way to participate in this type of endeavor that they might not otherwise find time for or know how to go about doing.

Large business category:
Wisconsin Hospitality Group, dba Pizza Hut and Applebee's (headquartered in Waukesha)
For Wisconsin Hospitality Group, giving back to the community isn’t a passing thought; it’s an integral part of the company’s culture. WHG and its 118 Applebee’s and Pizza Hut restaurants attribute their success to the mission of always putting people and service first. Over the last 15 years, WHG has donated more than $2.7 million combined to local charities. The main charitable focus of Applebee’s owned by WHG since 2000 has been on the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. During their years supporting this cause, over $1,400,000 has been raised.  The focus for Pizza Huts owned by WHG since 2001 has been One Heartland, a camp for children affected by HIV/AIDS. Since Pizza Hut’s campaign began, nearly $1,000,000 has been raised.  In addition to those primary campaigns, Applebee’s has celebrated Veteran’s Day since 2008 by serving free meals and offering thanks to vets, active duty servicemembers and their families.  This year 18,694 guests came in and received a free meal. Additionally $4,000 was raised for Honor Flight. Pizza Hut has also been a supporter for World Hunger Relief in collaboration with YUM! Brands, helping to feed 90 million people in over 70 countries through World Food Program.  Individual locations also support their local communities with “Dining to Donate” fundraisers with 15% of each guest check donated to a local group.  WHG credits their 4,200 employees for their success with charity work and community outreach, noting “Each and every one work in their own way to support the numerous causes and we wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”

Cornerstone Humanitarian:
Barkha Daily, The Cheel in Thiensville
Barkha Daily, a Nepalese immigrant, started a campaign called Hope for Nepal to support the citizens in Nepal who experienced a devastating earthquake in 2015. She initiated the campaign in March of 2015 and has since raised over $15,000 which has gone directly to the people of Nepal to aid them in securing housing, water and food. She has spent countless hours speaking and raising money on their behalf and has been a voice for Nepal in the state of Wisconsin and beyond.

In addition to her dedication to earthquake relief in her homeland, she also donates much of her time managing and supporting the local Thiensville Village Market which is a non-for-profit, volunteer-run market that supports 2500-3000 people weekly with about 70 vendors. She serves as a volunteer ambassador for her alma mater, Lakeland College, coaching and recruiting students. The Cheel restaurant is housed in a historic building, the Commerical House, that was in immenent danger of being razed. Her efforts in restoring and saving that iconic building have been recognized by the Thiensville Historical Society. Her enthusiasm and energy have made her an important and effective contributor to the Thiensville community. Staff at The Cheel has also been involved with talking to restaurant customers about the devastating effects the earthquake has had on the country of Nepal and also helped raise money by encouraging customers to donate directly to Hope for Nepal.

“Each year, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, in partnership with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, recognizes people and businesses who exemplify the good work and great achievements that are possible in the restaurant industry,” said Ed Lump, WRA’s President and CEO. “This year’s finalists showcase the philanthropic and entrepreneurial spirit unique to Wisconsin’s robust restaurant community – one that gives back in communities each and every day.”

The NRAEF awards program also includes the Faces of Diversity American Dream Award, sponsored by PepsiCo Foodservice, and the Thad and Alice Eure Ambassador of Hospitality Award.

“The NRAEF’s awards program honors the many ways restaurants support and enrich America’s communities,” said Rob Gifford, executive vice president strategic operations and philanthropy, National Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “From the unlimited opportunity for people of all backgrounds to find success, to the countless ways in which restaurants invest in their communities, the awards help elevate the stories of impact that define our industry.”

For a complete a complete list of the 2016 state and national winners, please visit http://www.nraef.org/Build-Talent/What-We-Do/Restaurant-Neighbor/Recipients

About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation:
As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the NRAEF exists to enhance the restaurant industry’s service to the public through education, community engagement and promotion of career opportunities. The NRAEF works to attract, develop and retain a career-oriented professional workforce for the restaurant industry. The restaurant and foodservice industry comprises 980,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of more than 13 million employees, making it one of the nation's largest employers. For more information on the NRAEF, visit NRAEF.org.

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Since 1933, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association has been dedicated
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