Glenn Pougnet is managing director of restaurant campaign StreetSmart, which collects money for the homeless by asking diners to add £1 to their bill. He spoke to Kerstin Kühn about the recently launched Christmas campaign for 2009.
Caterer Tell us more about StreetSmart.Glenn Pougnet StreetSmart is a restaurant campaign that operates every year in the run up to Christmas. Restaurants involved add £1 to every bill, which diners can pay if they want to. While it's voluntary, 99% of diners tend to pay and a lot of people add more than £1 to their bill. We are sponsored by Deutsche Bank, which covers all our administrative costs, so all of the money raised goes towards projects helping the homeless. We support projects ranging from the provision of shelter and food to rehabilitation and retraining to help people make a new start.
Caterer How many restaurants are involved in this year's campaign?
GP This year 550 restaurants across the UK are taking part and we're hoping to raise £500,000.
Caterer Can operators still get involved now?
GP Yes, operators can get involved at any stage of the campaign by simply filling in their details on our website, www.streetsmart.org.uk. We then get in touch and provide them with the table cards and other promotional material.
Caterer Which restaurants tend to raise the most money?GP Traditionally Gordon Ramsay Holdings raises the most as a group and last year it raised £40,000. There are also individual restaurants that are successful such as the Oxo Tower, Marcus Wareing, St John and Arbutus. All the money raised is used for projects in the specific cities where the restaurants are based and in some places, where there is a lack of funding, the money goes a lot further than in London.
Caterer Has the economic climate seen more people become homeless and are consumers less giving?GP The recession definitely has a knock-on effect. It doesn't take much - people lose their jobs, their house - and year-on-year it seems there are more homeless people in London. We thought restaurants would back out of taking part in StreetSmart this year but they haven't at all and diners are more willing to give as well.
Caterer Is there an irony in great gastronomic restaurants raising money to help the homeless who can't afford proper meals?GPI don't think it's ironic; it's just a great way to give something back, especially during a time when we're celebrating. We're not trying to pour on the guilt and the great thing is that people know the money will be used for projects that help people. When you give money to someone on the street you never know what they will do with it. With StreetSmart every pound is used to fund a project.