Looking for a first part-time job can seem like a difficult task for young people. Finding a job is hard for anyone, but when teens do not have any workplace experience or have never been through a job interview, the task may seem daunting. However, restaurants often act as a job incubator for the teenage community and welcome this workforce with open arms.

Finding a young workforce eager to make contributions can be helped by participating in philanthropic efforts. When restaurants include this as part of the business model it becomes well worth it — from a reenergized staff to new community relationships built from paying it forward.

“We have been involved with Girls Inc. of Santa Fe for a number of years,” said Tomasita’s founder Georgia Maryol. “Whether we are operating bustling restaurants or selling and planning catering events, the idea of getting involved in our community is never too far down on our to-do list.”

Girls Inc. of Santa Fe is an organization inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold through direct service and advocacy. They have once again teamed-up with Tomasita’s to introduce preteen and teenage girls to the restaurant industry.

According to the National Restaurant Association, 41 percent of restaurant employees are under the age of 25, while 55 percent are under the age of 30. In New Mexico, there are over 95,000 statewide food service employees, reported the New Mexico Restaurant Association.

“Working in a restaurant is a great way to begin a job history. It teaches teens time management, customer service skills and is a great way to earn an income,” Maryol said. “Our servers and bartenders make well over the minimum wage daily.”

Georgia explained she recently had a dental appointment and the dental assistant recognized her. They reconnected and talked about the impact of Girls Inc. of Santa Fe. As a result of the program and the subsequent opportunity to gain work experience at Tomasita’s early in her career, she is now using her skills to be patient-centric.

Below are ways your restaurant can get involved. You’ll likely find some great employees (and repeat customers) in the process.

  • Serve on a community board. Identify a board that suits your personal and business interest. If you are located in the downtown district, consider joining a downtown business council or the Council for the Arts.
  • Sponsor local events and charities. If a popular marathon route is near your restaurant, consider becoming a sponsor. Your restaurant logo will be on a running shirt and you can offer water stations along the route.
  • Source ingredients locally. Offering menu options with locally sourced ingredients demonstrates to your local community you support local growers and offer the freshest dishes.
  • Donate extra food to shelters and food banks. This is an easy and effective way to give back locally. You can learn more about the federal law through the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
  • Offer fundraising event deals. Pick a date and promote it with the sponsoring organization such as an elementary school. Invite the public to eat at the restaurant during a set period of time, and the restaurant will donate a percentage of profits generated to the organization. Plus, you may gain new customers who may not have eaten at your restaurant previously.

These are just a few ways restaurants foster better community relations. Your goodwill will not go unnoticed, and soon your restaurant will be viewed as a cornerstone of your community.

Daniel Trujillo wrote this when he was the local government and community affairs liaison at the New Mexico Restaurant Association.

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