At the end of April, a half-mile wide deadly tornado ripped through central Arkansas. The tornado was on the ground for more than one hour taking the lives of residents and destroying communities. The American Red Cross jumped into action and opened shelters, provided health services and distributed food to the affected areas.
As a Director of Operations for LongHorn Steakhouse, I oversee three of the five locations in Arkansas. In the aftermath of the tornado, all my team members could think about were the affected people in these communities. Some people lost their homes and all their belongings. Many of my team members and managers had friends and neighbors directly impacted by these storms.
I reached out to the local Red Cross to ask what I could do. The Red Cross relayed that they usually receive the majority of contributions and support in the first two weeks after a natural disaster yet it takes years to rebuild communities. Food was a common donation, but money was needed if they were to succeed in total reconstruction. I knew we could continue the support beyond those initial two weeks.
We decided to host a Dining for Dollars event last month simultaneously at all five LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants in Arkansas with 10 percent of sales for the entire day going to the Red Cross. I was excited by the opportunity to contribute to a great cause and an organization that shares the same values as LongHorn serving local communities and helping neighbors.
Many of the restaurants were relatively new to the communities. The LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants in Little Rock and Hot Springs are just about a year old, Fort Smith is the oldest at almost four years and the Jonesboro location is only three years old. The restaurant in Rogers just opened a few short months ago. The team members in all of the Arkansas restaurants were excited and proud to be able to help out on such a local level. Everyone was incredibly positive leading up the event. The managers at all the restaurants worked above and beyond to get the word out and to make the event a success. They called people, made signs, talked to guests in the restaurant—they did so much to try to spread the word. Everyone in the restaurants was just so selfless in trying to help out as much as they could.
Many guests expressed their gratitude while dining in. Many hospital employees and first responders came out to show their support. We ended up raising more than $3,000 for the Red Cross. Their volunteers, who were still in the field working hard even two months later, were also very appreciative and said the funds raised would be put to good use.
I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to support the community and to have all my LongHorn Steakhouse team members so engaged and committed as well. It was truly the managers and team members in the restaurants who did the work for this event, and I am humbled by their selflessness and appreciative of their hard work. There’s still a lot to be done to rebuild these communities, but we’re inspired by the strength and tenacity of the residents here.
By: Craig Purdie, Director of Operations, LongHorn Steakhouse