Menus That Make a Difference

Food and fund-raising are often paired, but the tradition typically revolves around a trusty annual dinner and auction. But recently, local restaurants and nonprofit organizations have teamed up, filling tables and raising money and awareness for charitable causes in innovative ways.

Shortly after opening, Americana began inviting groups to participate in its Nonprofit Brunch, where 10 percent of the proceeds from receipts of those who dined in support of the nonprofit organization are donated back.

The idea was inspired by frequent requests for gift certificates for auctions, says restaurant co-owner Mike Utley. “We thought if we could put our guests in direct touch with a cause, it would be more impactful than just a gift certificate,” he says. “It also gets new people in our restaurant who may not know about us, so everyone wins.”

On average, participating charities raise $300 through the brunch, totaling roughly $5,000 over six months. Participating nonprofits have included the Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines Music Coalition and Des Moines Social Club. Americana is planning to shift the Nonprofit Brunch to Sunday night dinners based on the same concept, Utley says.

Last month, Orchestrate Hospitality and the Young Women’s Resource Center (YWRC) hosted a third successful “Celebrity Servers Night,” an event that attracted more than 600 guests and raised $46,000 for the organization.

The event pairs local celebrities with experienced servers to help guests enjoy a prix-fixe meal, with all gratuities benefiting the YWRC. More than 30 Des Moines celebrities, many dressed in costume, entertained guests during two seatings at Centro and Django. Favorites from this year included Susan Hatten and Janelle Buxton as Joan and Melissa Rivers and Rosalie Gallagher, Soozie McBroom, Christine Hensley and Wicker Van Orsdel, who came as Carmen Miranda.

“Orchestrate Hospitality is happy to support the Young Women’s Resource Center’s efforts to transform the lives of at-risk young women,” says Orchestrate president Paul Rottenberg. “We are able to showcase our talented staff and delicious cuisine, and the YWRC raises critical funds through a fun and accessible format.”

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