Visit McHenry County, restaurant association launch give-back program

  • Jerry and Gina Garbis, co-owners of Richmond BratHaus, are among those hoping consumers get behind a give-back gift-card program. McHenry County Gives Back, a collaboration between Visit McHenry County and the McHenry County Restaurant Association, aims to boost restaurants and food pantries at a critical time for both.

    Jerry and Gina Garbis, co-owners of Richmond BratHaus, are among those hoping consumers get behind a give-back gift-card program. McHenry County Gives Back, a collaboration between Visit McHenry County and the McHenry County Restaurant Association, aims to boost restaurants and food pantries at a critical time for both. Courtesy of Kristine Austin/Visit McHenry County

 
Submitted by Cynthia Wolf
Updated 12/11/2020 11:08 PM

A collaboration between Visit McHenry County and the McHenry County Restaurant Association aims to provide not only a much-needed financial shot in the arm for area restaurants, but also an easy and effective way to boost food pantry provisions at a critical time.

It's no secret that McHenry County restaurateurs, like their peers across the nation, are among business owners hardest hit by pandemic-provoked restrictions. It's also becoming increasingly clear that food need is striking an ever-growing segment of people locally and across the U.S.

 

"Many of our restaurants are offering gift card incentives right now," said Jason Doren, chairman of the McHenry County Restaurant Association. "Buying gift cards is the easiest and quickest way to help struggling restaurant owners, because it's an immediate cash infusion.

"We thought why not put together a campaign that encourages community members not only to buy these gift cards -- and in that way help to save their favorite dining establishments from potentially closing for good -- but also to encourage buyers to donate the added-value portions to their local food pantries," Doren continued.

In other words, where a restaurant is offering a buy-a-$50-gift-card, get-$10-free promotion -- and many are making such offers -- purchasers are encouraged to designate that the $10 card go to the closest pantry. Or, if they are feeling generous, they could designate the entire purchase go to the pantry, Doren said.

Visit McHenry County has developed a marketing strategy for the effort, dubbed McHenry County Gives Back: Family Restaurants Helping Families in Need, said Jaki Berggren, executive director. Details are available at mcgivesback.org.

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When the pandemic began, Visit McHenry County pivoted to focusing on local support of the area's unique shops, restaurants and other attractions to keep them viable for when the visitor economy once again ramps up, Berggren added.

"We want and need our fantastic local restaurants to still be here when it is again time to boost visitor-enticement efforts," she said. "We also think this is a great way for people who might not otherwise be able to enjoy some of these excellent dining establishments to experience what they have to offer."

Ziya Senturk is vice president of operations for Port Edward Restaurant in Algonquin. He is among restaurateurs who will enthusiastically cheer the McHenry County Gives Back program.

"When this pandemic started, we offered to our customers an opportunity to buy gift cards with the promise that 50 percent of the cards' value would be donated back to our employees," he said. "We quickly sold over $12,000 in gift cards.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"With about 90 percent of area restaurants offering bonus-card incentives right now, I think this is a great idea," Senturk added. "It has wonderful potential to benefit both the restaurant owners and the people in the communities where they are located."

Kristine Austin, sales and marketing manager for Visit McHenry County, said the Visit McHenry County IL! app and social media platforms will be among outlets used to encourage and recognize participation in McHenry County Gives Back.

For more details, call Visit McHenry County at (815) 893-6280 or email to kristine@visitmchenrycounty.com.

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