The festive season is nearly upon us – traditionally a time when we come together to think of others. DineSmart wants you to put your money where your mouth is and help the homeless, one table at a time.

Now entering its 13th year, DineSmart is a charity initiative that harnesses Christmas cheer and redistributes it to grassroots not-for profit organisations operating in local neighbourhoods. It’s quite straightforward. Between November 9 –December 31 2015, participating restaurants offer their customers the option of adding a donation of $2 or more to their bill.

Social responsibility has taken on an increased relevance over the past few years, particularly in the hospitality industry. Adam Robinson, founder and CEO of StreetSmart, has so far raised more than $3.4 million for homeless people with his brand of gastronomic philanthropy.

Robinson established CafeSmart under the same banner. It asks cafes to donate $1 for every coffee sold towards local charities. CafeSmart 2015 saw 491 cafes get involved, working together to raise a new record total of $135,612.

Robinson already has 85 restaurants on board for DineSmart this year (including industry big-dogs ChinChin, Mamasita, Stalactites, Longrain and Izakaya Den), but he’s on the campaign trail to make sure 2015 is bigger and better than ever.

Why join in? Broadsheet asked Robinson, Mamasita front-of-house manager Nick Peters and Nicole Papasavas of Stalactites to reflect on their experience of DineSmart so far.

It’s help for those who need it most

100 per cent of money raised is redistributed into local, grassroots projects via a charitable grant. Proceeds raised in Daylesford, for example, support non-profit organisations working to break the cycle of homelessness in Daylesford.

The project aims to take the burden of fundraising from smaller charities and philanthropic organisations. “Larger charities have their own fundraising machines,” Robinson explains. “We’d rather focus on the little guys, whose work is equally as important, but who might not necessarily have a way to connect with those who wish to support them. We want to open up that discussion and give them a platform to tell their story.”

It’s easy to implement

All you have to do is add a non-GST button to your till and get your front-of-house team on board. They inform your customers of the scheme, and when a group is ready to pay its bill, give them the option to add a charitable donation of $2 or more per table.

If you feel like it, you can donate at any time of day or night. Twenty-four-hour city stalwart Stalactites will fly the flag even in the early hours. Papasavas can testify as to its simplicity. She explains, “Because we’re such a busy place, anything new I introduce needs to be easily understood by staff and straightforward to run. DineSmart is such an easy program to follow. Raising money for the homeless is as simple as adding a button to the system.”

Customers aren’t delving into their pockets for a gold-coin donation or disrupting service. They’re contributing in a quick, easy and hassle-free way.

It’s good for business

Involving your restaurant in DineSmart establishes it as a business with a social consciousness that’s engaging with the local community.

“Customers are increasingly conscious of how they’re spending their money, and will often make decisions based on how a business is run and what it stands for,” says Robinson. “With a scheme like DineSmart, you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve and saying to your customers, “We care about this stuff. We want to play a part, and we enjoy doing it.”

Mamasita’s Peters agrees. “Customers really appreciate it. They like that we’re looking out for others in the area, and will almost always offer a donation.”

The same can be said for your staff. DineSmart can work as a way of aligning a team around a set of beliefs – company-wide charity drives can work wonders for staff culture. “The younger generation of hospo staff looks towards employment from a company they can respect, and whose ethics they can respect,” says Robinson. Everyone values the opportunity to be involved in something meaningful.

Find the participating DineSmart restaurants in your neighbourhood here.

DineSmart kicks off on Monday November 9; restaurants have until then to get involved. Head to StreetSmart to sign up or check out the restaurants already involved.