Ben and Ali Koenig founded Heritage Eats in 2014, opening their first location in 2015 at the Bel Aire Plaza and bringing Napa Valley a globally inspired, fast-fine restaurant concept that also thinks and acts locally.

Their dishes may be inspired by traditional meals from world cultures, but their business model is distinctly local.

“Philanthropy is foundational to our business model,” Ali explained.

“We have done things to connect us to the community and vice versa,” said Ben.

“We’ve been really proud to be a locals’ restaurant, and while tourists help us during peak travel season, we see a lot less seasonal drop-off because of our strong local clientele. We’re extremely grateful.”

Their giving includes monthly “dine and donate” days where education and youth-based programs like schools and other nonprofits partner with Heritage Eats and receive 20 to 25 percent of the proceeds for the day or evening.

“We let the school decorate and make the restaurant their own for the event,” said Ben.

They’ve also partnered with Napa High School.

The school’s athletic director asked the Koenigs to feed the football team before each game this past season. They put healthy, global meals together for about 80 or so hungry kids.

As a business, they know that they can’t say yes to everyone, but by keeping their focus on youth and education, they are able to help as many groups as they reasonably can.

“Coming from close families with values in philanthropy, we identified early on that we wanted to be a place where families felt welcome and could also be partners toward a positive impact. Children are the bedrock of a community, particularly in Napa where there’s such a strong sense of family and community,” said Ali.

Recently, the Koenigs spotted an Instagram post from five-year-old Valentine Heine of Browns Valley Elementary School who is vegan and couldn’t use the In-N-Out Burger gift certificate she was awarded as student of the month.

Heine said Heritage Eats was her favorite restaurant so the Koenigs donated 12 $25 gift certificates to her school, which are now used as incentives for the Green Bear Award, which recognizes students who take action to help the planet.

Starting in January, Heritage Eats will join with Aroma Indian Cuisine to support the Blue Oak School’s Sunday Supper program that donates food to the local soup kitchen.

Ben describes getting two emails from kids attending the school asking for help. The school had found that the Salvation Army could only provide a hot lunch and dinner six days a week for homeless people or those in need.

“Every Sunday evening, Aroma had been feeding 50 or 60 folks,” said Ben. “Aroma has been the lead on it and have been trying to find other restaurants. We talked to Blue Oak School and agreed that we would provide food for the first Sunday of every month for the next year.”

Lastly, Heritage Eats has sent some of its employees to the Napa Valley College for continuing education.

“We were their first job and they were either going to the junior college already or just out of high school and thinking about what they wanted to do,” said Ben.

About four or five employees expressed interest in continuing education in hospitality, and the Koenigs sponsored them to attend courses at Napa Valley College.

“All of them really enjoyed the program. The college does a really good job—not just the text book stuff, and all of the employees have stayed and grown with Heritage Eats so it has been exciting to see their growth,” said Ben.

“Community partnerships have made the whole process of being restaurateurs more fun for us,” said Ali.

The Koenigs have opened two more locations in Walnut Creek and Palo Alto, but Napa is where they say their community involvement and giving has really resonated best.

Additionally, tourists are learning about Heritage Eats from Yelp and other review sites and seeking the restaurant out as a locals’ food find.

“When Ali and I go on vacation we ask the bartender or baristas “where do you eat?,” said Ben.

Lucky for the Koenigs, and all of the Napa residents who benefit from their generosity, many visitors to Napa ask the same question and ultimately find their way to Heritage Eats.

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You can reach Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com