Ten food banks next month will be better able to feed the hungry, thanks to T.G.I. Friday’s.
The casual dining chain’s largest franchise group, The Bistro Group, which has 31 franchised locations, is running its second Can for a Fan drive, and hopes to donate 2,000 more cans than last year.
Amie Dancu, director of marketing for The Bistro Group, speaks to Restaurant Management about the drive.
Can you describe Can for a Fan—how it works and what it entails?
It’s a virtual food drive. We donate one non-perishable item for every new Facebook fan we get. It officially launched November 1 and runs through December 31. The more community members that fan us, the more we can donate.
Our goal is to give back to the community while building our Facebook fan base of consumers we can reach back out to. This resonated very well last year—so much so that this year we are not only repeating it but we are attacking it in a more aggressive manner.
Last year we aimed to donate 3,000 cans of food and this year we’ve set it at 5,000. Instead of actually giving the banks the cans, we gave them the dollar amount because they got more food for the dollar than we can purchase.
How are you getting the word out about this?
We are talking about it in our restaurants. We have table toppers and posters. And the consumer will see something very unique in our restaurants. We have No.1 Can Fans (employees) in each of our locations. That person has been chosen to represent this and very much champion it, making sure the guests are aware and the employees are participating.
The Can Fans have a T-shirt that says No.1 Can Fan and on the back there’s a QR code and it says Scan Me. That takes the consumer on their smart phone directly to the Can for a Fan landing page so they can immediately fan us and/or forward to their friend. We’re really making a statement and showing the guest how easy it is.
More people will probably use the QR codes on the table toppers but the T-shirts are really for the noticeablity wow factor.
Why did you decide to do something to benefit food banks?
The Bistro Group’s owner, the late Ruth Conway, was very involved in supporting the food banks and would make special trips there. So it’s very near and dear to our hearts. It’s also a natural alignment for restaurants who are involved in food all day to be giving back in that manner.
What we have seen is that there are people in need and you often have no idea they are in need but they are struggling on a daily basis because they’ve lost their job and have to pay their mortgage. And, the Pittsburgh food bank recently lost some funding so that really makes us know that what we’re doing is going to make a bigger impact.
Why are food banks important to your customers?
A list of the individual food banks is printed onto the table toppers. It’s important for our consumers to know they are making a difference—not from a global or national perspective but we wanted them to feel very connected to their own communities. So they don’t look at this as something that’s not going to make a difference in their city.
What have you changed about the campaign this year?
It was softly spoken last year but this year we are shouting from the rooftops.
To do that, in the restaurants we are embracing it on all our point of sale. We normally don’t do that for these types of campaigns because we don’t want to look boastful about what we’re doing in the community. But in this case, it is the community that’s giving so we absolutely want to involve the consumer.
The Can Leaders in the stores also are new. We are working with the food banks in each of the cities to get press and publicity so they and we get the exposure.
It’s also about bringing awareness to the charity. We’re really using our foodbank partners as our legs as they know the communities so well.
How does an event like this also benefit T.G.I. Friday's/The Bistro Group?
It benefits us from the social standpoint of doing something good in the community but also connecting with technology-conscious consumers. It helps us stay relevant with them. We are giving the consumer a way to be active and to give. And it’s easy—but it’s hard to remember to take food somewhere and donate it.
And once someone has fanned us, we can talk to them in a more meaningful manner—so our conversations can be all based on the store they use. That makes it much more personal for consumers.
Will you continue this program next year?
I think we’ll reevaluate it after this year and see where we land with it. If we exceed our goal this year we’ll tweak it. At some point we have probably pulled as many fans as we can to some degree. It definitely is not going to go away. In some capacity, a virtual drive is very consumer relevant in today’s technology.