From managing COVID-19 restrictions to simply keeping their doors open, the pandemic’s impact on restaurants has reminded us all of the valuable place they hold in the heart of our communities.
That’s why the General Mills Foodservice team decided to double the number of winners in its Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest, an annual contest that celebrates independent restaurants and food trucks, their one-of-a-kind dishes and the vital role they play in our communities.
The team awarded 20 winners this year, giving more restaurants and food truck operators the opportunity to win $5,000 as well as paid advertising and other marketing tools to promote their business.
“The goal this year was to recognize as many restaurants as we could, knowing they’re all struggling in so many ways,” says Kelley Walhof, Brand Experience assistant manager, General Mills Foodservice. “And we wanted to make entering the contest as easy as possible because we know restaurants have so much on their plates right now.”
To enter, restaurant operators were asked to upload a photo of their recipe using at least one ingredient from General Mills Foodservice’s participating brands, share how their business is doing and how their dish is bringing comfort to their customers during this challenging time.
In the past, the Foodservice team has traveled to the winners’ hometowns to award them in person and hold a celebratory open house at their restaurants.
But this year, the team surprised winners with the news during a Zoom call.
Surprising the winners
Veneé Pawlowski, owner of Black Magnolia Southern Patisserie in Greensboro, North Carolina, is a first-time winner for her Bourbon Banoffee Pecan Cinnamon Rolls.
“Cinnamon rolls bring warm, fond memories of comfort to people, and we want to do that with everything we make at Black Magnolia Southern Patisserie,” says Pawlowski.
She says her and her husband plan to use the money to expand their business.
“This is going to help us immensely get to where we need to be. This is a life-saving win right here.”
“The winners have been much more emotional than in past years,” adds Walhof. “You can really tell that they needed this now more than ever.”
Each of the 20 winners also received a “celebration box” featuring a personalized sign and pennant to hang on their wall, a yard sign, an oversized check and a variety of fun marketing materials to promote their win.
Here’s Suzanne Raiford, owner of Daisy’s Lunchbox Café & Bakery in Searcy, Arkansas, showing off her winning sign.
Raiford is a repeat winner for her Peach Praline Galettes, a longtime family recipe.
“I’m so excited. It’s a real privilege,” says Raiford. “It’s very humbling to me to do this. It’s very humbling that I was considered a winner.”
The People’s Choice Grand Prize Winner
In addition to winning the $5,000 in cash, recipe winners had the opportunity to be named the “People’s Choice” Grand Prize Winner for an additional $5,000 donation to a local food bank.
The winner was selected through a vote on the General Mills Convenience and Foodservice Facebook page from Feb. 22 to 26, 2021.
Corner Café in Orange, Massachusetts was named the People’s Choice Grand Prize Winner after it received the most votes for its Maple Brownie Cakes with Candied Bacon. The Café will donate the $5,000 to the North Quabbin Foundation.
“We know that restaurants are the first to step up to help when their community is in need,” says Walhof. “With the growing hunger crisis that has only been exacerbated by COVID-19, we look forward to donating $5,000 to a local food bank on behalf of our Grand Prize Winner.”
In addition to winning a $5,000 cash prize for themselves and securing $5,000 for a local food bank, as People’s Choice Grand Prize winner Corner Café will receive a VIP marketing package that includes a one-on-one culinary consultation with the chefs from General Mills Foodservice as well as additional marketing support.
For more information on the contest, visit NeighborhoodToNation.com.