Restaurant chains have proved themselves to be eager to continue their support for Share Our Strength and the charity’s Dine Out for No Kid Hungry campaign, and during the month of September many brands are reporting progress toward record fundraising goals.

Washington-based Share Our Strength raises awareness for childhood hunger, which affects one in five children in the United States, and has raised millions of dollars to support federal hunger prevention programs that provide school breakfasts and lunches and support food-insecure children after school and during the summers.

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NRN Partners

Restaurants are continuing their best practices in eliciting donations for Share Our Strength and coming up with new programs this year, said Cate Puzo, the organization’s senior manager of communications. She added that more restaurants this year have run donation programs for the entire month of September rather than only during the weeklong Dine Out for No Kid Hungry event taking place Sept. 16–21.

“We’re on track to blow last year’s fundraising record of $5.9 million out of the water,” she said, adding that nearly 9,000 restaurants have registered to participate this year.

In addition to supporting a charity so closely aligned with restaurants’ mission to serve food, brands also could benefit by making inroads with consumers who are highly attuned to corporate social responsibility, Chicago-based Technomic recently reported. The market research firm commented in a recent blog post that many Millennials in particular make restaurant choices based on corporate philanthropy and identify children’s well-being and ending hunger as important causes.

Technomic cited research that found 62 percent of Millennials — a demographic cohort that now represents 25 percent of adults in the United States — look for socially responsible restaurants when choosing where to dine out. Fifty-four percent of Millennials want to eat at a restaurant that gives back to its community through charity.

Children’s welfare was raised by 62 percent of Millennial respondents as a top concern, while alleviation of hunger was cited by 52 percent as an issue that concerns them.

Second helpings

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Pita Pit, a Coeur d’Alene, Idaho-based fast-casual chain of 300 stores, is rolling up its Dine Out for No Kid Hungry efforts this year into its first national cause-marketing campaign, offering a $1 bounce-back coupon for every $1 donated to Share Our Strength in September.

The chain hopes to raise $50,000 this year, and its “biggest win” so far has been its increase in franchisee participation, which has risen 40 percent over the number of stores that participated last year, said national marketing coordinator Ashley Babino.

“Our franchisees are so engaged across the board at their local levels, and being aligned nationally with this campaign is great,” she said.

Pita Pit is encouraging operators to do even more for the campaign if they would like to, and one franchisee in Ohio already has pledged to donate 100 percent of a day’s worth of profits to the campaign.

Other foodservice brands are collecting donations for Share Our Strength in return for bounce-back coupons or coupon booklets, including Arby’s, Bruegger’s Bagels and Denny’s, the latter of which is offering coupon booklets worth $9 of savings for a $3 donation.

Denny’s is also partnering with the American Egg Board to make an in-kind food donation for every purchase of its new Build Your Own Omelette limited-time offer. The egg farmers’ association will donate one egg to Share Our Strength for every purchase of a Denny’s omelette.

“We’re delighted to join forces with America’s egg farmers on such an important issue affecting children across the country,” John Miller, chief executive of Spartanburg, S.C.-based Denny’s, said in a statement. “Through our partnership, and the incredibly generous donations from the organization and our guests, we hope to raise greater awareness and relief for childhood hunger.”

Donations across the nation

Brands also are thanking their customers for participating in Dine Out for No Kid Hungry with free food and snacks for set amounts of donations.

Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers, for instance, rewards customers who donate $10 with a complimentary half hoagie, chips and soft drink, and guests who donate $25 or more receive a special commemorative T-shirt. The Atlanta-based chain also will donate $1 for every bruschetta appetizer ordered.

Dallas-based Corner Bakery is participating in Dine Out for No Kid Hungry for its sixth consecutive year, reprising its popular offer of a free Whoopie Cookie for every $1 donation. If guests give $5 to Share Our Strength they receive a booklet of coupons worth $25 in savings.

Joe’s Crab Shack also has an escalating-rewards system for guests who choose to donate a little more to the campaign this year. For a $5 donation, guests receive a free appetizer, or they can donate $10 to receive a free bucket of snow crab or queen crab.

Joe’s Crab Shack, a division of Houston-based Ignite Restaurant Group, and casual-dining chain Ted’s Montana Grill also are two brands that are very proactive in keeping their guests apprised of their fundraising progress on their brand Facebook pages.

As of Sept. 7, Joe’s Crab Shack was more than a quarter of the way to its goal of providing 10 million meals to hungry children, or a $1 million donation. Share Our Strength’s campaign reports that a $1 in donation can support the delivery of up to 10 meals to children in need.

Atlanta-based Ted’s Montana Grill said that, as of Sept. 9, it had raised enough money to provide more than 650,000 meals, more than a quarter of its way to the brand’s goal of 2 million meals. The chain is pointing guests toward an online donation page with in-store marketing materials and is donating $1 from every sale of a $3 special combo of Ted’s Pickles, housemade chips and dip, and a Bar None Bison Slider.

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