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National Restaurant Association - Red Robin franchisee shines light on the gift of giving

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Red Robin franchisee shines light on the gift of giving

Mike Axiotis, second from left, and his team are committed to giving back to the community

For Mike Axiotis, participating in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) annual Light the Night campaign is more than just charity. It’s the Pennsylvania restaurant executive’s way of giving back to the community and of keeping founder Steve Hanzlik’s memory alive ‑‑ seven years after his death.

Axiotis, president of Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, a 21-unit Red Robin franchisee based in Allentown, Pa., says the company, which has raised approximately $700,000 for LLS since Hanzlik’s death from Leukemia in 2010, is committed to ensuring his legacy lives on.

“We always look at how much we raised the
year before and set new goals to beat it.”

Mike Axiotis, Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group

Charity is the name of the game. “Our main priority is to continue raising funds for LLS – by forming teams and walking in multiple Light the Night walks, by participating in pin-up sales, bake sales and car washes,” he says. “Giving back is part of our culture; it’s part of what we do.”

The company has raised more than $400,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association

The list of contributions is long. In addition to its commitment to LLS, Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group has raised more than $400,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in the last six or seven years, raises funds for breast cancer awareness, and sponsors local sports teams and youth programs.

Participation is the key to successful fundraising. “You have to be involved,” he says. “If we’re going to put any kind of money or contributions behind something, we’re going to get our team members, managers and executives to show up and get engaged in the cause. We don’t just want to write checks.”

Lehigh Valley employees serve up soup to Breast Cancer Walk/Run participants

A little advice for companies getting involved in charities. Pick one that means something to you or someone in your organization, Axiotis says. “Pick something meaningful so people will get behind it, get passionate about it, and will do really well with it. Then you can tell the story of why you do it, and your employees can share the story, too.”

Do you know a restaurant company that is outstanding when it comes to giving back to the community? We’re accepting nominations for our Restaurant Neighbor Award until Nov. 17. Our national winners will receive $10,000 for their favorite charity or nonprofit organization. Nominate them today!

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