Everyone knows the old adage, “Nice guys finish last,” and unfortunately that is too frequently the case. Often, kindness is taken for weakness, and people tend to take advantage of the weak. Sure, I’ve been burned for being a “nice guy” but my upbringing and morals could never allow me to be anything but a decent, caring, human being.
At the age of twenty-six, I was shocked to hear that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Being a man—a very young man—I never thought that breast cancer was even a possibility. Needless to say, a life-threatening event like that has the power to change you.
After beating breast cancer I made two new promises to myself. My first promise was that I would follow my dreams and make every effort to achieve my goals, and the second was that I would always do my best to help people that are in need.
At the time of my diagnosis, I was a thriving mortgage banker. I was financially stable and poised to build a life of financial freedom. The problem was, mortgages were hardly my passion. Since I was a young boy, I always loved food, cooking, and in particular, experimenting with different flavors. Since I could remember, I wanted to own my own restaurant. Luckily, I had squirreled away some money, and with the help of loans, family, and friends, I was able to buy a fairytale restaurant. The grounds are set in the center of Clove Lakes Park in a historic stone building. I named it “The Stone House at Clove Lakes,” and about one year later I opened a restaurant within my restaurant, “Chefs Loft at The Stone House.” I was happily fulfilling the first promise to myself.
My second promise led me to get involved with local charitable organizations and make an impact however small it may be. Being that I had a great venue to host events, I decided to use the venue to raise money for some great organizations. We would throw themed events and donate the net proceeds. The organizations also had the opportunity to sell raffle tickets, fifty-fifty, and to further raise funds at the events. Although it wasn’t the reason I started hosting these events that I noticed that there was a tremendous amount of goodwill generated for the restaurant.
Each event would garner plenty of media attention, and the charities would market the events to thousands of supporters through their email lists and social media channels. The events are always held mid-week so it never takes away from our busy days, and the staff gets to work more and put a few more bucks in their pockets. The events are a huge benefit across the board. First, they generate funds for organizations that help the community, second, they bring new guests and great exposure to the restaurant while warranting significant media coverage, and lastly, they are a great way to keep employees working and happy.
Restaurant owners and chefs can flex their creative juices in planning festivals, special dinners, or theme nights to benefit a local charity. When creating these events, they should reach out to all local media outlets and community leaders to maximize awareness and ultimately, the success of the event. Creating a memorable experience for the guests, generating money for a local charity, and spotlighting your venue as a force for good, are all positive outcomes you can expect.
I'm incredibly lucky and thankful to be able to do what I love and be successful at it. Being a “nice guy” certainly played a big role in that. If you have the opportunity to use your space for good, the goodwill comes back to you tenfold.