Celebrity wait nights offer nonprofit organizations a unique and fun way to raise money.
For an evening, local restaurants give charities a portion of the night’s sales or gratuity, while the nonprofit organizations provide “celebrities” to help serve meals. Celebrities can include news anchors, politicians or college leaders, as well as an organization’s members.
The celebrities sell tickets to their friends and family so they can enjoy a night on the town and support a good cause.
“Part of the fun in coming is, let’s say you happen to be the celebrity, your friends and family sit in your section so they can give you a hard time,” said Kelly Becker, general manager of the Real Seafood Co., which hosts celebrity waiter nights.
Each celebrity is paired with a waiter or waitress and doesn’t technically serve, but is still assisting, Becker said.
“Celebrity wait nights are social and it helps us fund our service projects,” said Lucy Abu-Absi, past president of the Toledo Christ Child Society, which started celebrity wait nights in the area several years ago.
“This is one of our most important fundraisers and it’s also an opportunity to let people who attend know what it is that we do,” she said.
During its past celebrity wait night, more than $30,000 was raised for the Christ Child Society’s different projects, Abu-Absi said. The organization sold out both Real Seafood and Zia’s.
Celebrity wait nights take the pressure off of the charity to select a venue or finding volunteers for setup; all the organization needs to do is ask people to come out, Becker said. Typically, the nonprofits end up selling out the entire restaurant, she said.
La Scola Italian Grill co-owner Moussa Salloukh said his restaurant has hosted a few celebrity wait nights since its opening and the nights usually sell out as well.
“It’s been real positive,” he said.
Bethany House, a long-term transitional house for battered women and children, had its first celebrity wait night at La Scola in February.
“We were very pleased for our first time around,” said Kim Marion, Bethany House board member. “It was very positive. We raised a lot of money and the people in attendance had a lot of fun, too.”
The Bethany House raised roughly $11,000 during its celebrity wait night and will be hosting one in the future, Marion said.
At the Real Seafood, charities receive all gratuities during its wait night, Becker said. Zia’s, which is owned by the same company of Real Seafood Co., participates in celebrity wait nights as well.
At La Scola, a charity usually receives 10 percent of sales for the evening, Salloukh said. Salloukh, who is also a co-owner of Hungry I, said eventually the Hungry I will host celebrity wait nights.