Restaurant Neighbor Award

Past Winners


  • Tropical Smoothie Cafe (Locations Nationwide): Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s company philosophy fosters a positive lifestyle while giving back to the community and supporting those who need a helping hand. For over a decade, Tropical Smoothie Cafe has partnered with Camp Sunshine to raise national awareness and funds to provide children with life-threatening illnesses and their families a fun and relaxing place to get away from their daily challenges. In 2018, Tropical Smoothie Cafe raised more than $1 million, and spent 800 volunteer hours in support of Camp Sunshine with the help of 20 franchisees and member volunteers. Since the partnership began in 2008, Tropical Smoothie Cafe has donated more than $6.3 million and 6,600 volunteer hours, providing 2,500 members with a much-deserved getaway.
  • Southern Hospitality Ventures, Inc. dba Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers (Lincoln, Nebraska): The team at Raising Cane’s franchisee Southern Hospitality Ventures, Inc. (SHV) wanted to do something to support members of the military who sacrifice so much to protect and serve our country. In 2009, SHV began their partnership with Cell Phones for Soldiers, a nonprofit organization that exchanges old cell phones for calling cards that are given to active duty military members and veterans. Since the campaign began, Nebraska troops have received more than 822,000 minutes in calling cards, and over $102,000 has been raised for the Nebraska National Guard Foundation. Southern Hospitality Ventures created two annual clothing campaigns to support individuals in the community. Raising Coats with Raising Cane’s was created in 2007 and has since collected nearly 21,000 new or gently used coats for people in need. In 2009, Stuff the Bus was formed to help in-need students. To date, the program has collected enough school supplies to help over 12,300 students and raised nearly $49,000 for local schools. Through these programs and others, since opening their first Raising Cane’s in 2006, SHV has donated over $1.8 million to the communities where they operate.
  • Great Full Gardens (Reno, Nevada): The first Great Full Gardens restaurant opened in 2013, and since its inception, the team has been dedicated to supporting and nurturing their community by sharing their passion for locally sourced food and passing on the love of growing food to new generations. Most recently, Great Full Gardens formed a partnership with a grassroots nonprofit called RootED that provides local schools, veteran’s groups and other nonprofits with donated or fund-supported greenhouses. The program allows the recipients to teach at-risk children where food comes from and how to grow their own produce. To date, Great Full Gardens has donated three greenhouses, with a fourth ready to go. The partnership’s long-term plan is to provide at least one greenhouse or more each quarter as the program grows. By providing schools with a potential means to earn funds by selling their produce, the program encourages self sufficiency and creativity while engaging kids in a healthy, productive pastime. Great Full Gardens encourages customers to get involved by donating $1 to RootED with the purchase of specially designated menu items.


  • Anna Maria Oyster Bar (Bradenton, Florida): The owners of the four-unit Anna Maria Oyster Bar have always put one philanthropic cause at the head of the class—benefiting the education of the community, especially its under- privileged citizens. In 2017, owners John and Amanda Horne embarked on a pioneering concept that demonstrates how restaurants  and other businesses in any community  can improve grade-level  reading for students. The Campaign  for Grade-Level  Reading  is a collaborative  effort that ensures more low-income students will succeed in school.
  • Wildflower Bread Company (Arizona): Founded by Tracy and Louis Basile, Wildflower is a family-owned business operating 16 fast casual restaurants  and a central production  facility that produces naturally leavened artisan breads and specialty cakes. Wildflower Bread Company was founded on the philosophy that treating their employees (aka Breadheads), guests and community like they are family would cre- ate a brand that truly makes a difference.  Wildflower’s four principal pillars of giving support are food insecurity, education, women and animal advocacy, all supported through the Wildflower Cares Foundation.
  • Burger King McLamore Foundation: Named after Burger King co-founder  James W. McLamore,  the Foundation  has helped more than 700,000 children and families. “In a little over a decade we’ve awarded more than $32 million dollars supporting more than 30,000 students,” said Israel. In Florida alone, the Miami-based Burger King McLamore Foundation has awarded $3.6 million dollars to deserving Florida seniors since 2005.


  • Dairy Queen:  Since 1984, the Dairy Queen system has raised more than $120 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. This year alone, franchisee donations from Dairy Queen’s Miracle Treat Day totaled approximately $4 million and directly benefited more than 170 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals throughout the U.S. and Canada.
  • Gecko’s Grill & Pub (Sarasota, FL):  For 25 years, Gecko’s Grill & Pub has made philanthropy a key ingredient in its company culture.  In the process, Gecko’s has become a pillar of the Sarasota community through its support of the 4-H Foundation, local law enforcement, military and combat veteran groups and youth services.
  • The Red Barn Restaurant (Augusta, ME):  The Red Barn Restaurant is the centerpiece of giving in Augusta, Maine.  The restaurant puts community first through donations to veterans, local schools, statewide food banks and animal welfare organizations.


  • Carr’s Steakhouse (Mayfield, Ky.):  Carr’s Restaurants have been a community pillar in rural Mayfield, Ky. for more than 60 years. Since the steakhouse’s inception six years ago, employees have worked to help their neighbors and better their community by organizing numerous events. Fundraising efforts, which raised roughly $50,000, have allowed children in their community’s school district to enroll in youth sports. Their pinnacle event last year was raising funds to keep the local movie theater alive. They served a free meal to the community in exchange for donations to the movie theater and raised thousands of dollars to keep the establishment in business.
  • Gregg’s Restaurants & Pubs (East Greenwich, R.I.): For the past 20 years, Gregg’s Restaurants & Pubs have worked with non-profit groups to support families, the homeless, the forgotten and the elderly. Through an annual event called the Giving Tree, employees, customers, friends, family and vendors have distributed more than 325,000 Christmas gifts to those in need in the community over the past two decades. Other charitable initiatives include Gregg’s Giving Cake, which donates a portion of cake proceeds to Hasbro Children’s Hospital; Cake for the Cure, which supports the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation; and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank which Gregg’s has supported through monetary donations for the past seven years.
  • Cornerstone Humanitarian: Harald Herrmann, President, Darden Specialty Restaurant Group (Orlando, Fla.):  Harald Herrmann opened the flagship Yard House in 1996, years after he launched his restaurant industry career as a part-time dishwasher during high school. Feeling a need to give back to the community, Herrmann began his largest philanthropic initiative, Round It Up America, in 2009. The program enables guests to round up their check total, donating the extra change to a charity of the participating restaurant’s choice. Yard House alone has raised more than two million dollars through Round It Up America and approximately $3.2 million has been raised in total since 2009.
  • Firehouse Subs (Jacksonville, Fla.):  For more than 10 years, Firehouse Subs has played a role in fundraising to increase the safety of communities in 44 states and Puerto Rico. In 2005, they established Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation and have granted more than $17 million to 1,250 fire, police, EMS and public safety organizations in over 1,000 communities. The programs supported by the Foundation provide life-saving equipment, prevention and safety education, public safety scholarships, military support and disaster relief.


  • Ollie’s Restaurant (Edwardsville, Pa.): Since 2011, Ollie’s Restaurant has provided six meals a week to children at risk of hunger through its Dinners for Kids program. Currently, staff and volunteers prepare and deliver 37,000 meals annually for 120 children. Because Ollie’s uses its own kitchen facilities to cook and package meals, 100 percent of the funds raised for Dinners for Kids — $250,000 to date — are used for meal costs. King's college conducted research and found that the program has a positive impact on the children's behavior and academic performance.
  • The King’s Kitchen / Noble Food & Pursuits (Charlotte, N.C.): In 2008, the Jim Noble Restaurants formed a separate nonprofit restaurant, the King’s Kitchen, with 100 percent of its proceeds used to feed the less fortunate. The kitchen also provides job training opportunities for homeless men and women. At least once a week, the staff provides boxed lunches and distributes sandwiches to those living on the streets.
  • Cornerstone Humanitarians: Ryan Turner, Chris Hall & Todd Mussman, Founders, Unsukay Community of Businesses (Atlanta, Ga.): In response to an employee who was diagnosed with stage 4 gallbladder cancer and given a grave prognosis that warranted major funding beyond his health insurance coverage to pursue progressive healthcare options, the founders led the charge on hosting a community fundraiser and raised nearly $300,000 within a four week period to help offset his expenses. The outpouring of support from the Atlanta restaurant community sparked the idea for the Unsukay partners to help found and create The Giving Kitchen, a non-profit whose funds provide crisis grants to members of Atlanta’s restaurant community. In just over a year, $300,000 dollars has already been granted to over 150 recipients. The Giving Kitchen also just started construction of the forprofit restaurant it owns, called Staplehouse. One hundred percent of all dividends from Staplehouse will flow directly to The Giving Kitchen.                                                                                                                                   
  • T.L. Cannon Companies (Williamsville, N.Y.): As a franchisee of 61 Applebee’s restaurants across New York and Connecticut, T.L. Cannon Companies provided nearly $2.5 million in monetary and in-kind donations in 2014 through creative, in-store fundraisers. Its spring and holiday fundraisers along with an annual charity golf tournament has sponsored more than 130 Make-A-Wish children since 2008 and the company has provided more than $1.1 million in funds and in-kind support to benefit the organization. Additionally, its Flapjack Fundraisers helped local schools and youth organizations raise $1.75 million last year.



  • Matt Haley, CEO, SoDel Concepts (Rehoboth Beach, Del.): At 35 years old, Matt Haley began his foodservice career as a dishwasher, after spending seven years in prison. He entered a vocational program and learned to cook and today owns seven of Rehoboth’s finest restaurants. To pay it forward, he established the Global Delaware Fund to administer goods and services to at-risk children and those in distressing situations, both locally and nationally. Named the 2014 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year, Haley has helped fund three schools and provide scholarships for students in Nepal, in addition to mentoring children and funding the education for youth who have been affected by school funding cuts.                                                                   
  • Passport Pizza (Clinton Township, Mich.): Since 2005, Passport Pizza has served as a conduit for restaurants, vendors and grocery stores to donate leftover food that is then distributed to nonprofits, shelters, projects and soup kitchens throughout the community. Helping others help others, Passport Pizza takes pallets of food that may only have a three-day shelf life and distributes them to local partners who can immediately give the food to those who need it. Passport Pizza’s relationships extend to a broad span of business leaders, nonprofits and community-based organizations to help countless people including youth, families, students, churches, single mothers and the homeless.
  • Cohn Restaurant Group (San Diego, Calif.): In 1996, Lesley and David Cohn co-founded the Garfield High School Foundation and the culinary arts program — featuring a $2 million state-of-the-art kitchen, serving line and lecture center — that has graduated 2,000 at-risk youth to date. Teenage students that are considered high risk for dropping out learn culinary skills to prepare them for future careers in the restaurant industry. The foundation’s annual Thanksgiving fundraising luncheon, run by the students under the guidance of Cohn Restaurant Group’s chefs, has raised more than $300,000 over the past 16 years to benefit the program and staff have volunteered more than 4,000 hours.                                                                                                       
  • Panda Restaurant Group (Rosemead, Calif.): Panda Restaurant Group and its 25,000 associates are committed to giving their time and resources to support the communities they have the honor of serving. Established in 1999, Panda Cares promotes the spirit of giving by serving the health and education needs of underserved children. More than $41.5 million has been raised for charities and causes, including natural disaster relief in the United States and internationally. Panda Cares works with organizations across the U.S. to provide meals and raise funds in its close to 1,700 restaurants, which includes Panda Express, Panda Inn and Hibachi-San. Additionally, Panda is committed to developing future leaders in the public school system through its “Leader in Me” program. Since, 2007, this program has served over 150,000 students in 250 public schools in the United States.