Redmond Restaurants Give Charities a Boost Through Dining Program

Celebrated Chefs is a program that pairs nonprofits with diners and gives charities of your choice a donation equal to 5 percent of your bill.

When it’s time to pay the bill after a fine meal, diners at certain Eastside restaurants might feel even more satisfied knowing that a portion of what they fork over is helping a chosen charity.

Celebrated Chefs is in its second year of connecting diners and local nonprofits with a program that donates 5 percent of participants’ dining bills to a designated charity.

Members simply pay with an American Express, Visa or MasterCard and the donation is made automatically.

“We are now up to $170,000, with the majority of those funds having been raised for Seattle-area causes,” said Katherine Kehril, Celebrated Chefs’ vice-president of marketing and operations. “The dining program is a vehicle by which nonprofits can raise money and restaurants can attract a desirable diner to their restaurant.”

Diners participate for free and can find a list of the participating restaurants and nonprofit organizations on the Celebrated Chefs website. Patrons can pick from categories such as animal welfare, education and senior services.

Two Redmond restaurants — and — participate in the program.

Hopelink, a Redmond-based nonprofit that serves homeless and low-income clients in north and east King County, has received almost $5,000 from the program, said Kris Betker, the agency’s public-relations specialist.

“It has been a great success and people are very fond of the program,” Betker said.

Kehril and Bob Sarkie, the program’s chief executive, started Celebrated Chefs two years ago in Seattle.

Sarkie, who for six years led Entertainment Publications, one of the largest nonprofit fundraising companies in the nation, always had an interest in cause marketing, Kehril said. In 2006, he founded Bellevue-based Rubicon Interactive, a technology-based interactive marketing and fundraising company. It’s the parent company of Celebrated Chefs.

“In the early ’90s, Bob came up with the idea of restaurants to not be dependent on a coupon or coupon books,” Kehril said. “However, the technology wasn’t there yet, unlike today.”

The company looked for a name that would represent the “spirit of these terrific participating restaurants,” Kehril said, and came up with Celebrated Chefs.

Celebrated Chefs is able to add new restaurants and partner with nonprofits throughout the year. The restaurants pay a small fee to participate, in addition to the donation to their chosen cause. The restaurants view the fee as a marketing expense, Kehril said.

“Our goal is to continue to help our nonprofits raise money by encouraging their dining members to visit Celebrated Chefs restaurants whenever they are planning a night out,” Kehril said. “Dining at participating restaurants who in turn support our partner causes creates a win/win scenario for both.”

In the two years since it started, Celebrated Chefs has rapidly grown to 20,000 supporters. This has allowed it to expand to San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C. The new locations have been up and running for five months.

Another part of the dining program is the “Celebrated Chefs Cookbook,” which is free with sign-up. The cookbook has a list of the participating restaurants and information about their signature dishes and chefs.

The company also hosts Celebrated Chefs Week, which allows participating restaurants to inform patrons about the dining program and the cookbook.  

The restaurants choose their charities, Kehril said, and invite patrons to participate in the dining program during its selected Celebrated Chefs week.  

Holly Smith, owner of Café Juanita in Kirkland, has been participating in the program for several months. She likes the cookbook because it has many uses that can generate revenue, or, more simply, it can be used as a thank-you.

Smith thinks the program is great, too.

“Café Juanita is happy to contribute to all of the participating charities and I like the fact that guests are having a real dining experience while donating,” she said.


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