November 29, 2023

Locally Owned Restaurants Give Back to Their Community

2.9 min read| Published On: November 29th, 2023|

By Cynthia McFarland

Locally Owned Restaurants Give Back to Their Community

2.9 min read| Published On: November 29th, 2023|

Locally-owned restaurants give back year-round to community.

The holidays may inspire giving, but one Central Florida family makes it a point to help local charities year-round.

Joseph, David and George Suleiman, owners of several popular restaurants in Lake and Sumter counties, have donated approximately $1 million to local charities since coming to The Villages. 

It’s one thing to run a successful business, but the Suleiman family defines success by giving back and positively impacting the community they serve.

“Our plan has always been to help. We sleep better when we know we’re helping a charity and running the business at the same time,” Joseph says. “Being part of the community and charities is a big part of our business. We’ve grown up with a strong family culture and been taught to give back. We can’t do it without the Man Upstairs, so we want to make sure we’re always giving back.”

Helping Others

Joseph, David, and George worked in the restaurant industry in their native New York before launching their Florida business pursuits in Tampa and Lakeland. 

Starting with Johnny Rockets and Taco Bell, they owned franchises before branching out into independent restaurants. The family currently owns Legacy Restaurant at the Nancy Lopez Country Club, Legacy Bar and Grill, Havana Country Club, Prima Italian Steakhouse, and The Angler’s Club.

“Once we came to The Villages in 2009, we knew it was home, and we’re fully dedicated to being here,” Joseph stated. 

Their mission to serve and help others began a decade ago with their first donation to Operation Shoebox, a charity that benefits deployed members of the military.

“We’ve always been big on supporting our country. We have family in the military, so that has encouraged us to donate to military causes,” Joseph says. “Over time we’ve become so close to the guests who come in. They’re not just customers; they’re family. Getting to know them is how we’ve learned about many who are military veterans.”

Joseph notes that Knights of Columbus has helped coordinate many of the local charities through the church the Suleimans attend. 

Dine to Donate

The Suleiman family came up with an innovative way to bring them close to their restaurant patrons and make a difference through local charities.

They call it “Dine to Donate,” a fun way to enjoy a meal out while contributing to a cause. 

During Dine to Donate events, customers interested in participating in the fundraiser simply write the charity’s name on their bill. The Suleiman family then donates 20 percent of the food bill total to the organization. At the end of the day, the restaurant matches donations and sends a check to the featured charity.

In addition to hosting fundraisers at their restaurants, the Suleiman family donates gift cards to local charities dedicated to helping children and veterans, as well as providing schools with education materials. 

Recently, their charitable efforts focused on child/human trafficking when they donated to Operation Underground Railroad, which was featured in the movie “Sound of Freedom.”

“At our most recent fundraiser for Operation Underground Railroad we were able to raise about $7,500 in donations, which we matched,” Joseph says. “We match most fundraisers with at least $500 additional.”

Beginning in late October and into November, the Suleiman family held a Thanksgiving food drive in all their restaurants to collect non-perishable food items. Donors received $10 vouchers for dining at Prima, Legacy, or Havana. 

At least 300 meals were donated to Wildwood elementary, middle and high schools. Additional meals were donated to Kids Central and area families in need. Canned food donations were given to the Wildwood Food Pantry. The Suleiman family also made a $500 donation towards the food drive.

“For Christmas we will be accepting toy donations for Kids Central at each of our restaurant locations and giving a $10 voucher good on your next visit,” Joseph says.

Getting Involved

The Suleiman restaurants have a busy winter planned for their Dine to Donate program. Check the schedule to find a charity you’d like to support and dine at the host restaurant that day. 

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About the Author: Cynthia McFarland

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