When the landmark restaurant Galatoire’s was purchased by new owners late last year, the new investors took pains to assure their clientele they had no intention of changing anything.
But one significant change in how Galatoire’s does business was already well underway by the time of the purchase, and these new owners, led by local businessman and one-time mayoral candidate John Georges, recently announced their plans to take it even further.
In 2005, the restaurant introduced a new program to auction off reservations for tables on its two busiest days of the year – the Friday before Christmas and the Friday before Mardi Gras – with proceeds from the auction donated to community organizations. Now, the new owners have formed a nonprofit, the Galatoire’s Foundation, to formalize this highly successful charitable program and better organize the restaurant’s overall community giving.
“Philanthropy is part of who we are as a community, and we think Galatoire’s should have a bigger role in that,” says Georges. “We want to combine our personal philanthropy with Galatoire’s. We’ll be able to do more than what we’re doing now, we’ll get into matching and seeding.”
Galatoire’s famously does not accept reservations for its first-floor dining room. So to secure a table for the immensely popular Friday lunches before Christmas and Mardi Gras, some regulars began paying others to stand in line for them. What evolved was the spectacle of college students, domestic help, office interns and others waiting in line for over a full day in advance so that their benefactors would be assured a table.
Since the change in policy, auction participants have paid a total of approximately $500,000 through their bids, all of it going to local nonprofits. The bids can go as high as $1,000 per seat for some tables, and they do not cover the expense of the meals.
Georges says the Galatoire’s Foundation will make a better template for giving and outreach overall and a better structure for directing the charitable gifts of patrons and owners.
“For a lot of people, our philanthropic giving is under the radar,” he says. “Galatoire’s is such an important part of this community, we think it should represent that part of the community, the heart of that giving.”