Houston Restaurant Weeks Makes Notable Change in Donation Process
Houston’s most popular charity dinner brought a noticeable change to its donation procedures. Houston Restaurant Weeks still support the Houston Food Bank, but it’s no longer the all-volunteer effort it had been when founder Cleverley Stone was alive.
Throughout its history, Stone has repeatedly emphasized that Houston Restaurant Weeks operates on a purely voluntary basis. While Stone has consistently announced total donations for Houston Restaurant Weeks, participating restaurants have made their donations directly to the Houston Food Bank on an individual basis. Stone would verify that a restaurant had donated in order to be eligible to participate in the following year’s event.
As she never interacted with donations, Stone never drew any income from her role as founder and organizer of HRW. Her volunteer status enhanced her reputation in the community; for example, the mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, declared a Cleverley Stone Day in 2012.
Following Stone’s passing last year, her daughter, professional poker player and media personality Katie Stone Cappuccio, established the Cleverley Stone Foundation as a non-profit organization with her husband, Joseph Cappuccio, and the local publicist Melissa Stevens as three directors of the organization. , according to online archives. The foundation’s stated mission is to “continue Cleverley Stone’s mission and legacy in supporting Houstonians in need,” which it does by producing Houston Restaurant Weeks.
Starting in 2020, the Cleverley Stone Foundation has quietly asked participating restaurants to submit their donations to it rather than directly to the food bank. Neither Houston Restaurant Weeks nor the Cleverley Stone Foundation have made a public announcement about this change in donation procedures. On the contrary, CultureMap learned it from sources in the restaurant industry.
Cappuccio declined CultureMap’s request for an interview on the reasons for this change. Instead, Stevens provided CultureMap with a statement confirming that the foundation has a new donation process in place.
“Donations are made by participating restaurants, based on the total number of eligible meals sold during the event,” the statement said. “All restaurant donations go to the Cleverly Stone Foundation, which then sends all profits to the Houston Food Bank, less the costs associated with the administration and production of HRW.”
What exactly these costs are and how they will affect the total donation is still unclear. In a follow-up email, Stevens clarified that these costs do not include Cappuccio’s salary. She, like her mother before her, is still an HRW volunteer.
In addition to the donation statement, Stevens also noted that the Cleverley Stone Foundation may expand its reach beyond the Houston Restaurant Weeks to produce additional events.
“The foundation will also serve as a vehicle for future charitable initiatives designed to support the greater Houston area and beyond,” the statement said. “In this way, the foundation seeks to live up to its namesake by continuing to support and serve the Houston community that Cleverley loved so much and to which she has dedicated a great part of her life. “
To assess restaurateurs’ perspective on this new procedure, CultureMap contacted Berg Hospitality founder Ben Berg. B&B Butchers, Berg’s luxurious steakhouse on Washington Avenue, has long been one of HRW’s biggest donating establishments.
“I don’t care, to be honest,” said Berg. “I know the majority all go to the food bank. It will always be the biggest donation to the food bank. Yes [Cappuccio] wants to add money to go to some charity restaurants or cancer research for her mom, that’s fine with me.
Amy Ragan, director of development for the Houston Food Bank, expressed a similar sentiment. She made the following statement through a representative:
“We are happy to be working with Katie on Houston Restaurant Weeks. She made some positive changes to the event, and since becoming president of HRW it has become much more of a third party event than before, and has streamlined roles. The event continues to benefit the Houston Food Bank and we will receive the net proceeds. Houston Restaurant Weeks has become such a popular mainstay that we expect the community to continue to support it and the amount of donations will increase as well. “
After moving from a handful of restaurants when Stone founded the event to more than 200 participating venues in 2021, perhaps it was time for HRW to pay its expenses. With the support of its attendees and longtime charity partner, Houston Restaurant Weeks and the Cleverley Stone Foundation appear poised to continue growing the event.