Bill Knott, founder of the annual Restaurants Against Hunger campaign, urges restaurateurs to get involved. It costs little, raises staff morale and gives customers who can afford to eat out the satisfaction of knowing that they're helping those who can't
"You may well ask, in these straitened times, why on earth any business in its right mind would consider supporting a charity. Paying staff to work on a Monday night when the only customer orders a starter and a jug of tap water might, indeed, be construed as charity in itself.
If you think times are tough for us, though, consider how much tougher they have become in the developing world. Donors have reduced their aid budgets, hurting the most vulnerable people on the planet. Charities need our help more than ever.
Action Against Hunger (AAH) is one of the leading charities fighting the scourge of child malnutrition: it works in more than 40 countries worldwide, not just responding to disasters, but implementing long-term "seeds and tools" programmes and building wells and boreholes to provide fresh water.
When AAH and I launched the annual Restaurants Against Hunger campaign a dozen or so years ago times were a little better. Even this year more than 350 restaurants have joined the campaign, despite the economic climate. Partly, this is because the cost to each restaurant is minimal - many establishments simply put £1 on each bill - but mostly it is because past experience shows that their clientele actively welcomes the chance to help those less fortunate. Having visited several of AAH's programmes around the world, I know first-hand what a difference even a few pounds can make to the lives of ordinary people trapped in extraordinary circumstances.
It is very easy to join the campaign, and it is a great way of building morale among staff: just visit www.aahuk.org and click on the "Fight Hunger, Eat Out" banner, where you will find all sorts of ideas and incentives for fundraising.
Restaurants Against Hunger lasts for the whole of October, but many restaurants have found the campaign to be so popular that they extend it until Christmas, or even - in the case of Carluccio's, for example - all year. Call it charity if you want; you might equally describe it, though, as enlightened self-interest."