Using restaurants’ power to put people back on their feet

As the sun beats down during this, the hottest spell of the summer, it’s hard to turn one’s mind to Christmas. But five months from today it’ll be less than a week away. A time for celebration, the busiest time of the year for restaurants. It’s also the time of year for giving.

Take a few short steps from the SRA’s central London office and the reality of homelessness quickly becomes apparent.

Restaurants are in a unique position, where they can help to transform the lives of the growing number of homeless, not just in London, but wherever all over the UK. It’s always worth reminding ourselves of the definition of the word ‘restaurant’. Literally it means ‘restore to a former state’. You could interpret that narrowly, just as your customers with food. Or, you could look at it in a much broader sense.

Schoolchildren, prisoners, people with autism, long term unemployed, local football teams, lifeboat crews and community groups in neighbourhoods across this island as well as much further afield –  in West Africa and Latin America: just some of the people and organisations that benefit from the incredible support and generosity of SRA Member restaurants. We’ve never actually done the maths, but we’re confident in saying that together you’ve raised huge amounts.

The popularity of our People’s Favourite award is just one small demonstration of how much diners value restaurants’ support for good causes and total immersion in their local communities. One SRA Member once calculated that the £250,000 it had raised for a wide range of local charities was more than matched by the trade it had encouraged – not that that was the reason for doing it!

So, down to brass tacks and the connection between Christmas, homelessness and the power of restaurants to make a significant difference.

It’s hard to better the description of one of Britain’s finest wordsmiths, Stephen Fry. So, let’s leave it to him: “Good food, good wine and good company enrich our lives beyond measure. Most of us don’t say Grace these days because we don’t know whom to thank for the inestimable pleasures of the table. StreetSmart lets us do a graceful thing. A simple thing. A kind thing. We may not be able to solve the question of homelessness but at least by doing something we, in some way, diminish its tyranny.”

Since its launch in 1998 StreetSmart has helped raised more than £7m for homelessness charities using the simplest of mechanisms – £1 on the bill during November and December. And to ensure the personal connection, all the donations from each restaurant go to a local charity, helping people get back on their feet, or be ‘restored to their former state’. So what’s stopping you, whether you’re an independent single site restaurant, or a large group, just think of the difference you can make.

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