The Georgia Restaurant Association announced the state winners of the acclaimed National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s (NRAEF) Restaurant Neighbor Award.

The national winners, chosen in early February from state awardees by a panel of restaurant and foodservice industry leaders from across the country, will be honored at a restaurant and foodservice industry gala awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2015.

The Restaurant Neighbor Award, developed in partnership with American Express, celebrates the outstanding charitable service performed by restaurant operators throughout the U.S. Created 17 years ago, this award recognizes the impact restaurants and entrepreneurs have made on their local communities.

The 2015 Restaurant Neighbor Award winners from Georgia are:

  • Here To Serve Restaurants: Atlanta-based Here to Serve Restaurants does its part in giving back to the city by running promotions in all 13 of their restaurants to donate a percentage of proceeds to multiple charities. Here To Serve Restaurants is involved with various organizations including: The Atlanta Community Food Bank, Atlanta Humane Society, Camp Twin Lakes, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Free To Breathe, GivingPoint, It's The Journey, Inc., Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Lupus Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Project Open Hand, Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research, and the Simon Youth Foundation.
  • Norsan Group Restaurants: The philosophy of Norsan Group Restaurants is to give back and help the communities that they are part of, which is evident through the involvement of their restaurants Frontera Mex-Mex Grill, Luciano's Ristorante Italiano and Pampas Steakhouse. Pampas Steakhouse and Luciano's Ristorante Italiano have aided and sponsored various events to help organizations such as the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the Georgia Aquarium, and other local organizations. Meanwhile, Frontera Mex-Mex Grill aids organizations that range from schools, religious associations, and girl and boy scouts groups.
  • Ray's on the River: For more than 15 years, Ray's on the River has partnered with the Fragile Kids Foundation, a nonprofit organization that “was formed to assist those families in need of aid to care effectively for medically fragile children.” Ray's on the River hosts two annual events for Fragile Kids Foundation, a golf tournament and breakfast with Santa, where families who benefit from the services of the Foundation come to the restaurant to enjoy brunch and a visit with Santa.
  • Sterling Spoon Culinary Management and Marlow's Tavern: For more than 16 years, Sterling Spoon Culinary Management and Marlow’s Tavern have partnered with Special Olympics Georgia (SOGA), which “provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.” Each year, Sterling Spoon Culinary Management and Marlow’s Tavern host an annual golf tournament to benefit the organization. In addition, Marlow's Tavern raises money for SOGA at the opening of each new location.
  • Tin Lizzy's Cantina: Tin Lizzy's Cantina works with local nonprofits in their community. Top projects include donating $1 from each taco sold on National Taco Day to Bert's Big Adventure as well as donating to It’s The Journey, Inc. Additional partners of Tin Lizzy's Cantina include Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Habitat for Humanity, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Sunshine on a Ranney Day.
  • Unsukay Community of Businesses: Unsukay Community of Businesses is involved with numerous nonprofits and causes throughout Atlanta. In 2014 alone, Unsukay participated in more than 130 various nonprofit or charity events via direct involvement or in-kind donations of food and beverage. Most of Unsukay’s focus on giving back to the community is through The Giving Kitchen, nonprofit cofounded by Ryan Turner, Chris Hall and Todd Mussman, whose mission is to provide crisis grants to members of Atlanta’s hospitality community facing unanticipated hardship.
  • Zaxby's: While each of the 650 Zaxby’s franchise locations contributes to their local community a little differently, volunteering, hosting fundraiser nights, or sponsoring local teams, youth have always been at the center. In 2011, Zaxby’s partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical illnesses. Additionally, Zaxby’s has partnered with Always Play 4 Each Other (APIVEO) as well as Downtown Academy in Athens, Georgia.

“Each year, the Georgia Restaurant Association, in partnership with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, recognizes people and businesses who exemplify the good work and great achievements that are possible in the restaurant industry,” says GRA executive director Karen Bremer.

“This year’s winners showcase the philanthropic and entrepreneurial spirit unique to Georgia’s robust restaurant community—one that gives back in communities each and every day.”

One Restaurant Neighbor Award winner will be named the coveted Cornerstone Humanitarian for exemplary philanthropic commitment.

Industry News, Philanthropy