IHOP has been honing its charitable programs to focus on community, and the second year of its No Kid Hungry partnership has helped elevate its efforts.
Last August’s “$1 Short Stacks to End Child Hunger” promotion, where every dollar raised is donated to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, passed more than half a million dollars in donations, said Kirk Thompson, IHOP senior vice president of marketing.
That was nearly double the $285,000 raised in 2015, IHOP’s first year in the program, Thompson told Nation’s Restaurant News.
“Every brand pauses and thinks about how it can be involved in charitable organizations that fit into the brand,” Thompson said. “Our guests do believe we are part of the community, so we can look at and see where we can make big differences.”
Thompson said the short stack program helps the brand elevate its connection to local communities.
“IHOP is more than 1,600 restaurants, which are true community businesses,” he said. “These are franchisees and general managers who have been involved with their communities for decades. It’s important at the local level to be so connected to the community.”
The No Kid Hungry program, Thompson said, also aligns the IHOP brand with an organization that emphasizes a healthy breakfast for kids. The short stack benefit also promotes IHOP’s signature buttermilk pancakes, he said.
While the division of DineEquity had long worked with Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with its National Pancake Day promotion in March, Thompson said, it was looking for ways to make its community involvement live on a year-round basis.
“We wanted to be very reflective of how involved our restaurants are across all parts of year and around children,” he said. “No Kid Hungry entered our thinking, and we started a program in 2015 to expand the focus on the health and wellbeing of children.”
Hunger was an issue that involved many in the local communities, he said.
“It is an issue that people connect to in the community, but they also connect personally, whether it’s someone in their family, in their circle of friends, or colleagues or co-workers who have benefited from the programs No Kid Hungry participates in,” Thompson explained.
“The reality is that hunger and getting enough food at the start of the day is a more pervasive issue than many realize,” he said. “It’s not just related to poverty. There are many other factors. It relates to everyone in a community, no matter what kind of community it is.”
IHOP made customer donations simple for the customers by allowing them to add a donation to their check or make a contribution online.
“Collecting cash under any circumstance is challenging,” he said. “We keep it easy for guests and our restaurant teams.”
That simplicity was important in getting buy-in from IHOP team members and franchisees, Thompson said.
Last year, Thompson said, IHOP decided to weave the No Kid Hungry participation into a “more comprehensive marketing plan.”
IHOP incorporates televisions ads, digital and social platforms and point of purchase materials, he said.
“No Kid Hungry is perfectly situated around our own goals around community and taking care of children,” Thompson said. The messaging has been helped by No Kid Hungry’s positioning of “a dollar provides 10 meals for children.”
“That makes the dollar a meaningful statistic,” he added.
Along with the amount raised, IHOP in 2016 had an internal goal of selling one million pancakes on the day of the promotion.
“We hit that as well,” Thompson said.
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