Jon Sybert, Jill Tyler, and Bill Jensen in 2015 as they geared up to open their restaurant. Credit: Courtesy Tail Up Goat

If you fail to show up for your reservation at Tail Up Goat, the restaurant will take the $15 per person cancellation fee and donate it to Miriam’s Kitchen—a local nonprofit that fights homelessness and serves 300 free meals per day. “You didn’t get to join us for a meal, but you provided a meal for someone else,” says Tail Up Goat co-founder Jill Tyler. “We’re only three months in and have already generated $4,500.”

The Adams Morgan restaurant with a Michelin star announced Monday that it had surpassed $100,000 in donations to charitable causes and organizations since opening three and a half years ago. A Saturday fundraiser for NARAL Pro-Choice America and the DC Abortion Fund pushed them past the milestone. Tail Up Goat hosted chefs from A Rake’s Progress, Emilie’s, and Maydan who served a lunch that brought in $15,500.

Tail Up Goat has also supported CAIR Coalition, Mary’s Center, Dreaming Out Loud, the Transgender Law Center, the ACLU, World Central Kitchen, She Should Run, the National Zoo, and Joseph’s House, among others. Tyler, whose family lives in the U.S. Virgin Islands, also mobilized the city in 2017 after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in the Caribbean. 

Despite the fact that restaurants operate on extremely thin margins, D.C. restaurateurs find near constant ways to support nonprofit organizations through major events like Chefs for Equality benefitting the Human Rights Campaign, ThinkFoodGroup’s Dine-N-Dash for World Central Kitchen, and Capital Food Fight for D.C. Central Kitchen; countless smaller scale fundraising lunches, dinners, or food and drink specials; and long-term partnerships such as the one Centrolina and Piccolina Chef Amy Brandwein struck up with DC Urban Greens

When Tyler and her partners Bill Jensen and Chef Jon Sybert split from Komi to open their own restaurant, they made charitable giving an early priority. “We knew we wanted it to be part of it from the beginning,” Tyler says. “Bill pushed us towards it when we were doing business planning.” They set out with the goal of hosting an annual dinner benefitting Miriam’s Kitchen, but that evolved into much more.

Over the years, the partners have learned how to stay in the black while opening their wallets. Fundraising dinners, for example, are a bigger drain on the bottom line than lunches since the restaurant is typically closed for that meal. “We feed people every day, but we found a way to feed people and raise money and use a space when it’s not normally being used,” Tyler explains. With dinners they would lose revenue from an entire service. “Lunch is format we’ll use moving forward.” 

Generally Tyler’s philosophy and advice for other restaurants is to bake charitable giving into everyday operations like they did with the cancellation fees, especially because ongoing fundraisers generate a steady stream of money nonprofit organizations can count on.

In addition to donating reservation cancellation fees, Tail Up Goat also has a program called “Cocktails for a Cause.” Tyler explains that they donate $3 off the sale of a specified cocktail to an organization at the end of each month. Expect to see similar charitable giving at the team’s second concept, cocktail bar Reveler’s Hour going in across the street. 

“Finding ways to give back in the course of what you’re already doing is kind of the key,” Tyler says.

Tail Up Goat, 1827 Adams Mill Road NW;  (202) 986-9600; tailupgoat.com