Think, ask questions before you round up for ‘charity’

I have written about many new charges being added to our restaurant checks since the pandemic.

In addition to the gratuity, we have seen “Health Care Fee,” “PPE Fee” and even a “COVID Fee.”

Now restaurants are adding a new way for you to spend — or misspend — your money, and this one is called charity. At quick-service restaurants, your cashier might ask you if you would like to round up for “charity.” More and more restaurants have added a line on credit card receipts rounding up for “charity.”

I believe in giving to charities, but only when I know where exactly my money is going. I really can’t pin down when restaurants and retailers started to ask customers to “Round Up for Charity.” It sounds noble and supportive of the community, right? But think twice before you round up your tab.

Think twice, then say no

Here is my problem with grocery stores and quick-service restaurants asking us to round up for “charity”: When I have asked the employees where the money is going, not one has been able to tell me what the charity is.

I have asked, “Is the charity local?” Again, the employees and very often managers have no idea where the money is going. If the staff and managers don’t know what the charity is, where it is located or even how the money gets to the charity, take my advice and don’t do it.

If a store wants me to donate to their charity, then they should put their money where their mouth is. Tell me what the charity is, what the charity does, how my money will be spent and then tell me you will match my donations. Once the store or restaurant stands behind their charity, they have a much better chance of getting my money.

Just say yes when it’s local

There are times when “rounding up” makes great sense. It makes sense when you and the staff and the manager know where the donation is going.

I love donating to zoos and when I’m there and they ask, “Would you like to round up?” I absolutely say yes! The botanical garden also offers many opportunities to donate while you are there, and their staff and management know where the money is going and how it will be spent.

Even though my kids are out of the local school system, I look forward to the local fundraisers where I go to a nearby restaurant or retail store and let them know that I would like a portion of my purchase to go to an extracurricular club at the high school. This works for me because I know where my money is going and so do the store employees and managers.

Don’t be pressured to give

Nobody likes to be pressured to donate. We like to donate when we know how money will be spent. I don’t like the high-pressure tactics that stores and restaurants are using to get your money. If the store employees don’t know where the money is going and they don’t post any information about the “charity,” the store should not be trying to shame you into giving them money.

• Izzy Kharasch is president of Hospitality Works and has worked with more than 700 restaurants around the country. He offers restaurant, bar or hotel owners a free consultation. Email him at

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