I write about many subjects typically surrounding my kids, including fundraising, gifts for children, vacations, and Boy Scouts.
Easy Neighborhood Fundraisers
One of the best fundraiser today for non-profits, including schools, school PTAs or PTOs, Scout troops, high school booster organizations, and traveling sports teams, is a restaurant fundraiser, sometimes called a Dine and Donate event. Although mainly in restaurant events, companies like Chipotle are moving these to a digital experience which opens up a whole new opportunity.
My experience is that the organization will generally make less than $1000 at a restaurant fundraiser. Nevertheless, the power of face-to-face interaction at these events provides additional opportunities in the future to recruit volunteers and ask for additional help. As a member of a PTA, I have used this method to raise money consistently, year after year.
This type of fundraiser comes in two types: those that collect fundraising coupons and those that do not. For the first type, the restaurant gives the organization coupons to distribute to as many people as possible, and then those coupons are turned in to the restaurant on the designated night to determine how much money the organization gets. The second type still requires the organization to hand out flyers for the event, but the difference is that every order on the designated night is counted as part of the fundraiser.
I suggest finding restaurants that are close to your organization as they produce the best results. I have also found that fast-food restaurants tend to draw more traffic than sit-down restaurants. Finally, consider local traffic patterns when selecting a restaurant; a hard-to-get-to restaurant will not draw as well as one that is easy to get to.
Don't just think of lunch or dinner places either; switch it up and include an ice cream, yogurt, or juice shop. We have a lot of success in September and May with local ice cream parlors.
Listed below are restaurants that help not-for-profits raise money by creating these great fundraisers.
Great Tip: Advertise your Fundraiser Early and Often
One way to make your restaurant fundraiser a success is to advertise early and often. Make sure your organization knows the date and talks about it for a couple of weeks.
Use a Variety of Restaurants to Attract Different Participants
Schools should use a variety of restaurants each year to draw families to their outings. As always, check with your local restaurant, as some restaurants participate in their national program and some don't.
The links provided are to company's websites when there is a specific fundraising page, if one is available on the company website; otherwise they link to the general website so you can find a location near you.
Restaurants and Ice Cream Shops Helping Local Organizations
- BD's Mongolian Grill
Great way to fundraise for churches, PTA, and other non-profit organizations.
- BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse
BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse will host a fundraising event for your school, organization or charity. The standard fundraiser donates 15% of the total food and soft beverage purchase from guests who bring in flyers for your event.
- Blaze Pizza
Blaze pizza is located across the United States and provides 20% back to the organization.
- Boston Market
Boston Market provides a 15% donation on sales. They provide you with a flyer and event tickets. Restaurants are located throughout the United States.
- Bruster's Real Ice Cream
Every Brusters Real Ice Cream store offers fundraising options. Find a local store in most states east of the Mississippi.
- Buca di Beppo
A Buca Fundraising Event will earn 15% for your non-profit organization. These Italian restaurants offer family-style dishes great for sharing with all the participants in your fundraiser.
- Buona Beef
Chicago area Buona Beef restaurants have a Buona Benefits Night program, with 15% going back to the non-profit. If you like Italian Beef sandwiches that rival Portillos, this is your fundraiser.
- BURGER KING® restaurants operated by Quality Dining
BURGER KING® restaurants operated by Quality Dining will give back 20% of sales to a qualifying organization
- BURGER KING® Restaurants operated by Tri-City Foods
Tri-City Foods operates Burger King restaurants in six Midwestern states. They donate 20% of event sales (from a limited menu) to your not-for-profit organization.
- California Pizza Kitchen
CPK advertises 20% back through their fundraisers. CPK also has a great Scout program, where Scouts can make their own pizzas.
- Cheeburger Cheeburger
Cheeburger Cheeburger helps you every step of the way, from creating flyers to making the night fun.
Chick-Fil-A offers four types of fundraisers; check with your local store.
Chili's give back events provide a 15% return for all vouchers presented on the night of the fundraiser.
- Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chipotle fundraisers are now in-restaurant and online! Supporters enter a unique code online for pickup and 33% of event sales will be donated directly to your cause. (Note: $150 minimum event sales needed to receive donation)
- Chuck E. Cheese
Chuck E. Cheese School Fundraisers receive 15% on sales. This is a great fundraiser for early grade school students.
- CiCi's Pizza Buffet
Cici's says to contact individual stores about fundraisers.
Culver's restaurants are usually locally owned and the owners are usually kid friendly.
- Dreamland BBQ
An easy, unique and fast money making fundraiser for your group. Dreamland BBQ is here to create a delicious alternative to magazine subscription and wrapping paper fundraisers. Locations in Alabama, Georgia, and Tallahassee, Florida.
- Elmer's Restaurants
Not all Elmer's Restaurants participate in Restaurant Nights, so be sure to call your local Elmer's in the states of Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and California.
- 54th Street
54th Street restaurants are located in St Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, and San Antonio and Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas. A fundraising event for your school, organization or charity can earn 15% of the sales.
- Foster's Grille: Home Of The Charburger
Foster's "Dining for Dollars" program will give back 10% to your non-profit organization. Foster's Grille has family restaurants in Virginia, Florida, Maryland, and North Carolina.
- Friendly's FUNraising
Friendly's typically run their in-restaurant fundraisers on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.
Another restaurant where I have seen advertisements for Fundraisers.
- Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille
The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille helps local organizations through its Funds for Friends program on selected Tuesdays. This restaurant is in Virginia and Maryland.
- Isaac's Restaurants
A community night at Isaac's will earn your organization 25%. Issac's are located in south-central Pennsylvania.
- Jamba Juice
Jamba Juice offers beverages, smoothies, juices, and snacks. They offer discount cards and catering for fundraising events.
- Jersey Mike's Subs
Jersey Mike's recently opened a shop in our neighborhood and did a great job partnering with all the local schools.
- Kona Ice
All across the country, Kona Ice LOVES to give back to schools, sports teams and organizations. Since 2007, Kona has raised over $3 million for local communities. This is a little different in that Kona comes to your event.
- Lou Malnati's Pizzeria
Another favorite Chicagoland pizzeria offering a fundraiser night with 20% going back to the non-profit.
- Maggie Moo's
Call your local Maggie Moo's ice cream place to see if they participate in an event you can host that's called Celebrity Scoop Night.
- Marie Callender's Restaurant & Bakery
Marie Callender's offers two types of fundraisers: pie sales and dining-in (percentage policy for the latter not explicit on the website).
- Margaritas Mexican Restaurant
Margaritas Mexican Restaurant offers a unique and authentic Mexican dining experience featuring traditional Mexican recipes and decor.
- Mark's Feed Store
For Mark's, in addition to serving great barbecue, giving back to their communities is a natural part of what they do everyday. Through this program, Mark’s will give back 15% of the sales that are brought in through your scheduled event.
- Max & Erma's
Max & Erma's advertise 20% return on their website and give some great tips for a successful fundraiser. Restaurants are located throughout the United States.
Some local McDonald's have local nights. Check with yours, as this is always a kids' favorite.
- MOOYAH Burgers, Fries, and Shakes
MOOYAH provides a graduating donation scale starting at 15% and goes as high as 25% of sales. MOOYAH is located throughout the US with many restaurants in Texas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, California, Utah, Florida, Wisconsin and others.
- Ninety-Nine Restaurants
Ninety-Nine Restaurants' "Dining for a Cause" nights are great across the New England area. They donate 15% back to host organization.
- Noodles & Company
Noodles & Company offers fundraising events yielding a percentage of sales. Contact a local manager for details.
- The Old Spaghetti Factory
LEO Fundraisers. Let's Eat Out and enjoy delicious dishes and help raise money for your organization or school. The Old Spaghetti Factory will donate 15% of your group's proceeds. Restaurants located in 12 states from Washington to Tennessee.
- Panda Express
Let Panda Express help you raise money for your school, organization, club or team. Tell friends and family to dine in or take-out at Panda Express and 20% of the event sales will be donated to your organization.
- Panera Bread
Panera has a sliding scale for payouts with the top payout at 20%. On the minus side is that if you don't get at least 20 orders, then you don't get a dime.
- Pizzeria Uno Chicago Grill
Dough Raisers earn up to 20% of sales.
Chicagoland has been waiting a long time for this one. 20% return on a Portillo's hotdogs restaurant fundraiser.
- Potbelly Sandwich Shop
This fundraiser has a flyer associated with it. The 25% return to the group makes it a meaty deal.
- Raising Canes
Great chicken and 15% back for your event.
- Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
Fundraisers are available for schools, community groups and non-profits. 20% for To-Go Events and 10% for Gift Cards.
Rubio's offers fundraisers for schools, church groups, sports groups, philanthropic causes or other non-profit initiatives.
- Sombrero Mexican Food
Sombrero has locations in the San Diego, California area and provides 20% back to non-profit organizations.
Contact your local Sonic drive-in about whether they offer fundraising events.
Each local Wendy's is different. We always get a great crowd when going to our local Wendy's on a school night.
Yogurtini offers a delicious and fun way to raise money for your non-profit group. Located in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.
The website, GroupRaise.com, has an interactive map that lets you search for restaurants in your area. This website also helps you book the restaurant on its website. It's a great resource when trying to find that perfect match.
Is There a Restaurant Missing?
If you've fundraised at a restaurant not on the list above, let me know, and I'll add it to the list. As this list grows, I've decided to add only restaurants that have a clear fundraising policy.
A lot of restaurants will help with a community fundraiser if you ask, but unless the chain has a clear policy for fundraisers, it will be up to each restaurant manager whether they will help or not.
Read More From Soapboxie
Restaurants No Longer on the List
To keep this site up to date, I remove the links to restaurants when they no longer show a fundraising page. If you see a page for any of these drop a line in the comments section, and I'll update it. Thanks.
- Chevys - Removed August 2017
- Oberweis - Removed August 2017
- Roti - Removed March 2018
- Go Roma - Removed May 2019
- Moe's - Removed May 2019
- Lone Star Steakhouse - Removed October 2019 - Ceased operation in 2017.
- Soup Plantation and Sweet Tomatoes - Removed June 2020 - Impacted by Covid-19 and closed all restaurants in May 2020. States were not allowing buffet and self-service style restaurants to re-open amid the current pandemic.
- Buffalo Wild Wings - Removed September 2022 - Removed information regarding fundraisers.
Easy Steps to Run a Restaurant Fundraiser
So you've decided your not-for-profit's next fundraiser is going to be at a restaurant. Here's how to set up the event and get the best results possible.
- Start planning your fundraiser at least 30 days in advance.
- Work with your group to pick a couple of dates for the fundraisers. Restaurants will want to do them during the week, so make sure you have dates on Monday through Thursday.
- Find a local restaurant to help you. The restaurant should be local and convenient to get to within a few minutes in evening traffic.
- You have a day and you have a restaurant. Now it is time to promote. Some restaurants will give you flyers and stickers to hand out; some have you do your own. If you need to have the flyers brought back into the restaurant for your organization to get credit, make sure you get the flyers out to the public. For elementary schools, see if the fundraising restaurant will throw in a class party for the class with the biggest turnout. Use email. Use Facebook. You get the picture: get the notice out to everyone in the neighborhood to stop by.
- Get volunteers to help you the day of the fundraiser. Have people greeting your group as they come in the door. Some restaurants will let fundraisers work behind the counter. Wendy's has allowed us to use their Wendy's outfit: it's always a hoot to see a principal dressed up and serving at one of these events. Bring your mascot costume as well.
- Have fun! When everyone hears about the great time people had at the fundraiser, more will show up at the next one.
Create a Theme for Each Fundraiser
This year, our PTA is trying themes for each restaurant night. For example, instead of doing all family nights, we are going to try a Moms' Night Out. Don't underestimate the power of a theme.
My Restaurant Fundraiser Didn't Work
Each organization has a different experience at different restaurants. I found proximity to the organization, the night of the fundraiser, and the time of year are all factors that drive the success of an event. You will learn each time which restaurants your organization will attend or won't attend.
Continue doing the high attendance events and switch out the low attendance events until you have a group that you can rotate through each year or every two years.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Does a restaurant that hosts a fundraising event have to be a 501(c)(3)?
Answer: Most of the restaurants in my article only work with non-profits as one of the benefits of being a restaurant is being able to make charitable contributions for tax purposes. Every restaurant is different, so if you are not a non-profit organization and have a special circumstance, then I would discuss this with the manager or owner of the restaurant.
Question: Which restaurant or food makes the most profit for a high school team fundraiser?
Answer: It depends. There are a few factors that impact the profit from a restaurant fundraiser. 1. The percentage the restaurant gives. 2. A flyer vs. a non-flyer restaurant. 3. The distance people have to travel including traffic conditions. 4. The affluence of the community. 5. the weather. 6. What else is going on that evening (think school concerts and sporting events) and 7. the willingness to promote the event to others.
If this is your first event, you should look for a restaurant that is close to your audience and ensures that it is not the same night the team is playing away.
Question: Could I put on a fundraiser for an adoption at one of these restaurants?
Answer: Most restaurants require the fundraiser to be related to a qualified non-profit organization. Using a crowd sourcing option like a Go Fund Me page would probably be better in this case.