There’s plenty of optimism in Australia right now as Melbourne and Sydney emerge from lockdown and we head into summer. It’s a chance to socialise, return to work and get back to the pub. It’s worth remembering, though, that for the more than 115,000 Australians experiencing homelessness, the easing of Covid restrictions will pass with little fanfare.

But you can make a difference. Now in its 19th year, DineSmart is back again this December, asking diners to add a small tip to their restaurant bill to aid the charity. And with the upheaval of the past 18 months, the cause is more important than ever.

19 years of DineSmart
StreetSmart founder Adam Robinson kicked off DineSmart in 2003. But the initiative really got going when Sydney restaurateur Sam Christie (The Apollo, Cho Cho San) took Robinson on a tour of the city’s restaurants.

“[He] drove [Robinson] around Sydney and was introducing him to other restaurateurs and chefs and other hospitality people,” DineSmart CEO Geoff Hills says. “That really formed the base for a hospitality fundraising event that had a community focus.”

Being hospitality-led is the essence of DineSmart. Hospitality businesses serve their local community, and the funds raised through DineSmart stay local too.

“It’s really about local people and local businesses standing for something good within their local community, and being able to have their local community contribute back,” Hills says. Christie’s diners and staff have helped fund a number of local charities – like Lou’s Place, The Milkcrate Theatre and The Wayside Chapel – near his restaurants.

For diners at a participating restaurant, everything works the same in 2021 as it has in previous years. When the bill comes, you’ll be asked if you’d like to chip in an optional $2 for DineSmart. All you need to do is opt in. With venue capacities down and dining habits changing, this year you’ll also be able to add a donation to online and digital platform orders through apps such as Mr Yum and Hungry Hungry.

The passion of the hospitality industry
For Alejandro Saravia of (Farmer’s Daughters, UMA and Ten Acre Block, it’s a passion for the local community that keeps him signing up for DineSmart every year.

“The essence of hospitality is to create an incredible experience for people – to make people happy,” Saravia says. “For us … [to] help people in need in our community is very important. At the end of the day, we want people to have an opportunity. Everybody deserves an opportunity to turn their situation around.”

For Saravia and others, 2021 is about getting more venues involved than ever before. As Sydney and Melbourne’s hospitality industries emerge from lockdown, plenty in the community will see little change.

“Even though the restaurant industry, hospitality and other industries have gone through a very difficult time this past 18, 20 months, we need to remember that there are people that are still in need,” Saravia says. “Going through this pandemic has opened up a lot of people’s eyes to other issues in our communities and in society, and also brought people closer together. So restaurants should be a channel to help customers help initiatives like DineSmart to keep helping people more and more.”

Sam Christie is also keen to use hospitality’s increasing freedom to give back to a community in need.

“We are thrilled to welcome our customers back into our venues and we are excited to connect them to this great campaign during December,” Christie says. “DineSmart is the perfect opportunity to give back to our local community, improving the lives of those who need our help the most. And our customers have always valued that from us.”

DineSmart runs December 1–31. Broadsheet is a proud media partner of DineSmart.