Since opening in Old Town Fort Collins just over 10 years ago, franchisee Ryan Houdek has initiated a combination of philanthropic and marketing programs to connect with his community and build loyalty among his guests and employees.
In fact, Houdek's accomplishments are so impressive, The Melting Pot has named him Franchisee of the Year for the past four years. He and his team have also won the Service Pot Award for the last five years, which honors the franchisee with the highest customer service ratings.
During this year's St. Jude Thanks and Giving® campaign, his Fort Collins restaurant raised well over $51,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the most in the nation among all Melting Pot restaurants. Houdek's restaurant raised over $41,000 in 2014, and he has seen the difference these impressive totals make not only to the hospital, but also to his staff and guests.
"Connecting with the community allows our staff to have a shared purpose and a sense of pride in giving back," he says. "We all feel satisfaction from doing good. And, charitable programs like this bring a lot of guest momentum with them as well. Our customers look forward to dining with us in November and December so they can support St. Jude."
Houdek mixes in some fun with the philanthropy, creating a "menu of giving" that includes popular wine dinners and in-home cheese and chocolate parties in exchange for larger donations, as well as a spin at a prize wheel featuring gift cards, cookbooks and more.
Local charitable causes are also near and dear to Houdek's heart. He and his restaurant team have raised many thousands of dollars over the years for the Food Bank for Larimer County. The Melting Pot of Fort Collins is one of the top fundraisers for the Food Bank's "Great Plates" event each March.
Beyond those good deeds, Houdek has created some terrific opportunities to foster community engagement and repeat business in his restaurant through a regular calendar of events. The fourth Monday of every month is Ladies Night Out, with a $27.95 four-course dinner and drink specials. Kids can get into the act too, with a “Little Chefs” program for ages 4-10. For $19.95, the youngsters receive an apron and special patch for the different cooking theme each month, such as “Berry Art” and “Gifts for Mom.”
Houdek recognizes that a little appreciation can go a long way, so he occasionally hosts special nights like Teacher Appreciation Night in December where teachers receive a complimentary gift box of chocolate covered strawberries.
It's creativity and giving back like this that helps our franchisees establish connections in their communities and win guest loyalty. Fan us, follow us, tweet us, and check out our fan site to learn more about our restaurants, or visit our franchising website for details on ownership opportunities.