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Hooters has donated more than 2 million to The V Foundation since 2002
Hooters has donated more than $2 million to The V Foundation since 2002

Restaurants see breast cancer fundraising efforts add up

Industrywide participation lifts results for Smashburger, Hooters, Caribou Coffee and more.

Many restaurant companies jump into Breast Cancer Awareness Month every October to raise money for charities studying the disease, and marketers have found that the different fundraising programs create a positive cycle rather than a zero-sum competition.

For instance, Denver-based Smashburger has chosen this October to roll out its first national cause-marketing program, benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The chain will donate 40 cents from every sale of its new Raspberry Sorbet Shake, which combines Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream and raspberry sorbet to produce the signature pink color of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Smashburger has promised a minimum donation of $25,000 to Komen, but the brand’s senior vice president of marketing, Jeremy Morgan, said it was well on its way to clearing that threshold. He added that the buzz about breast cancer fundraising in October made this month the right time to launch a national campaign.

“We wanted to choose a reputable charity that our consumers could connect with, and Komen fit the profile pretty much perfectly,” Morgan said. “We thought about what would be the most Smashburger way to do that. A ‘breast cancer burger’ felt a little weird, but then we had an idea session with our Haagen-Dazs partners, and we came up with the Raspberry Sorbet Shake.”

The new shake was tested in several markets and performed very well, especially among Smashburger’s female guests, he said. The brand always has tried to differentiate its menu with native appeal, such as burgers with local ingredients or partnerships with local craft breweries, but the national effort around one systemwide offering has worked well, Morgan said.

With dozens of restaurant brands joining the cause to fund breast cancer research in October, the industrywide effort has helped Smashburger’s program rather than competed with it, he added.

“Whenever you do cause marketing, first and foremost it’s about how you can do the most for the charity partner,” he said. “The fact that so many other restaurants and retailers do this in October for breast cancer reinforces the cause we have. … As a marketer, you always want a differentiating program, so we thought hard about what’s the Smashburger way to do this.”

Long campaigns for the cure

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Several brands have made October their signature cause-marketing month for years, including Atlanta-based Hooters, which has partnered to raise money for cancer research with The V Foundation for the 11th consecutive year.

Through Nov. 27, Hooters will donate $1 to The V Foundation for every sale from a special drink menu that includes Montevina Pinot Grigio, Simply Naked Red Blend, a Tropical Long Island Iced Tea or a non-alcoholic strawberry lemonade. The chain will also donate 50 cents from the sale of every Hooters Girl calendar and other merchandise.

Since 2002, Hooters has donated more than $2 million to The V Foundation through the Kelly Jo Dowd Breast Cancer Research Grant, established in honor of Hooters Girl and manager Kelly Jo Dowd, who died from breast cancer in 2007.

Similarly, Caribou Coffee has run its Amy’s Blend program for the past 18 years. The Minneapolis-based coffeehouse chain honors its first roastmaster, Amy Erickson, who died from breast cancer in 1995.

Caribou will donate 10 percent of the proceeds from its Amy’s Blend collection of products — including Amy’s Blend coffee and tea, hot and cold drink ware, and apparel and accessories — to CancerCare. For every 11-ounce bag of packaged coffee sold in grocery stores, Caribou will donate another 50 cents to CancerCare.

This year, the brand also introduced the “Caribou Knits” social-media campaign. For every post or message a fan shares on Facebook or Twitter using the #CaribouKnits hash tag, a volunteer from the brand will knit one inch of a scarf for a person in need.

Raspberry Sorbet Shake
Raspberry Sorbet Shake

Hard Rock Café’s Pinktober campaign is in its 14th year this October. The Orlando, Fla.-based chain will donate proceeds from its Strawberry Dream Milkshake, Strawberry-Basil Lemonade and Strawberry Cupcake to local and international breast cancer research foundations.

Common causes

Throughout the rest of the restaurant industry, dozens of independents and chains find their own ways to give money and support to breast cancer charities, often by leveraging the nationwide pink theme of October.

A spokeswoman for Hungry Howie’s Pizza wrote that the Madison Heights, Mich.-based chain has raised more than $800,000 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, or NBCF, in this year’s “Love, Hope & Pizza” campaign. Hungry Howie’s is making a donation for every pizza sold, every Facebook story shared, every new Facebook “like” gained, and every picture tagged with the #LOVEHOPEPIZZA hash tag.

Pizzas are being delivered in pink boxes with the NBCF logo on them, and Hungry Howie’s hopes to surpass the $1 million mark this year.

East Coast Wings & Grill also has a pink-themed promotion this year. For the fourth consecutive October, the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based brand will donate 10 percent of sales to Komen every time a customer orders pink tortilla chips and salsa, priced at $2.99. The brand also will have a “give back night” on Oct. 29, in which 10 percent of all sales systemwide will be donated.

Other chains introducing pink menu items for their cause-marketing campaigns include Fazoli’s, which will sell a Pink Lemon Ice through Nov. 3, and Tijuana Flats, which will sell a charity hot sauce in its units and allow customers to switch to a pink tortilla for their tacos for a $1 donation. Lexington, Ky.-based Fazoli’s will raise funds for the NBCF, while Orlando-based Tijuana Flats will benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Las Vegas-based Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop is running a “Save the Bobbie’s” campaign, in which the chain will donate 25 cents to NBCF per purchase of a signature sandwich, The Bobbie.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN

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