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Premier Chicago Restaurant Sets Pay It Forward Example

It is relatively common for non-profits to partner with restaurants for a fund raising event and receive a part of the proceeds. It makes a terrific atmosphere and win-win exchange for both parties and the patrons. The larger opportunity for long-term community benefit though lies in making a regular or ongoing stream of “paying it forward” events that are sustainable over an extended period of time. Simpler in theory rather than practice for most, yet one of Chicago’s premier restaurants started pioneering just this type of programming back in 1993.

The Signature Room at the 95th and The Signature Lounge on 96th offer sweeping views of the city sitting atop The John Hancock Center Building at 875 North Michigan Avenue. Matter of fact, they offer the highest public view from the building as The Observatory is really on the 94th floor! The Signature Room’s elegant art-deco interior, contemporary American fare and exceptional wine cellar make it an intimate dinner destination spot for both locals and tourists. The owners, Rick Roman and Nick Pyknis, believe strongly in giving back to the community and launched their Charity of the Month Program in 1993.

Each month, The Signature Room at the 95th offers the “Signature Selection” menu, an a-la-carte “specials” dinner menu which regularly feautures 2-3 selections under appetizers, soups/salads, entrees and desserts. The designated non-profit organization of the month receives 10% of the sales from this menu, which is offered throughout the sponsored month.

The staff has a chance to meet with a representative from the respective organization at each month’s kickoff to learn about their program’s mission and question questions so they will be able to share information with guests. Since the inception of the program, The Signature Room at the 95th has donated over $500,000 to 160 non-profit organizations in the Chicagoland area.

Local non-profits are encouraged to submit an application to be considered. Each year, applications are accepted through June 15 and then reviewed by the restaurant’s executive committee in the order applications were received, for consideration for the following program year. At the end of July, notifications of selection and non-selection are sent out to all applying organizations.

Then in the following January, The Signature Room at the 95th hosts the “Table for Twelve” Reception, to kick-off the yearly program and honor all upcoming, 12 non-for-profit groups. All profits from the reception go directly to the charity of the month organizations. Thank you Rick Roman and Nick Pyknis for your socially responsible efforts! We’ll hope you serve as inspiration to others to make sustainable venues for paying it forward in their communities.

Derrick Sorles is a freelance writer in Chicago and also acts as a blog consultant, helping people launch, maintain and grow their blogs.

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