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The restaurant industry has seen many ups and downs in recent years, as customers have curtailed the number of times they eat out. With restaurant sales down for the past few months, there was an uptick in March with food and beverage sales at restaurants up 0.7 percent from February 2013, according to the National Restaurant Association.

So how can restaurants keep the momentum going? One way is to participate in a charitable organization that will make customers feel good about spending money at your place. Research shows that “feeding hungry kids in America” is the cause most often selected as the most important of our day, and 91 percent of consumers have a more positive image of companies that support a good cause.

Share Our Strength’s Dine Out for No Kid Hungry, an initiative that seeks to end childhood hunger in America, is a one such cause. The organization supports programs that provide school breakfasts, free summer meals and countless other initiatives.  Restaurant partners include Arby’s, Corner Bakery, Denny’s, Joe’s Crab Shack, The Capital Grille and others. Customers are often offered specials for making a small donation while they eat – ensuring a return visit – and feel good about participating.

There are other effective trends drawing people to restaurants. Here are some to consider:

  • Extending hours of operation. Businesses are extending hours of operation to give patrons more time to visit and bring in more customers. Restaurants are staying open during the holidays and/or opening shop on days that they have typically closed. Longer hours mean more time for customers to stop by.
  • Expanding bar and beverage offerings. Businesses are expanding their bar environments in addition to beverage offerings to bring in larger crowds
  • Adding and increasing take-out options. Competitive pressure has resulted in many businesses expanding their menu or making it available on takeout. Nearly 60 percent of consumers get take out at least once a week, according to Technomic. More restaurants are adding designated areas specifically for the purpose of ordering or picking up take out.
  • Utilizing more cost-saving options. Businesses are searching for easy ways to minimize their spending and cost-saving technology is one way to go about doing it. For example, one-at-a-time dispensing systems like paper towel dispensers can help control consumption and reduce waste for businesses.

This year, take part in Share Our Strength’s Dine Out for No Kid Hungry initiative. Share Our Strength provides the tools and resources your need to make it simple and easy to join. For more information, check out the Share Our Strength website