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Cause Marketing can grow your brand

How to use cause marketing to build your brand — and do good!

When you peel back the layers of the term “cause marketing,” the core of the message stands for “to do good, by doing good,” for partnering organizations that share in a mutually beneficial goal.

Tim Hortons annual $1 Smile Cookie Campaign in one week raised more than $9.2 million for over 550 charities, hospitals, and community programs across Canada in 2019 alone. THAT’S AMAZING! Through cause marketing partnerships, Tim Hortons has benefited from national media coverage, increased brand buzz, a unique competitive advantage, and the valuable brand loyalty of consumers and even more so, communities.

If the cause marketing partnership makes sense, is communicated effectively, and aligns with guests’ values, the benefits for a restaurant brand – whether big or small – can be enormous.

There are currently more than 170,000 charitable and nonprofit organizations in Canada.

So how do you choose the right cause for your brand?

  1. Identify the “why” – your purpose and goal for cause marketing

Are you looking for effective environmentally friendly ways to reduce food waste? Is there a spike in child hunger in your community? Has there been a natural disaster that has damaged a school you want to help rebuild? Your “why” will begin narrowing your search.

  1. Start local

A report from the US shared that 43 percent of consumers want to see a company’s charitable efforts influence their local community, a fact that is not surprising and is ideal for independent restaurant operators who want to raise their profile at home. Larger franchised operations have the resources to focus more of their energies on national and local causes for a more dramatic impact.

  1. Go for guest support

In an era where social responsibility is top of mind, especially with the Millennial generation, which is likely to choose one brand over another based upon their efforts, understanding what your guests care about is critical to your cause marketing effectiveness. A restaurant customers survey from Statista revealed the top five types of charities guests would like to see restaurants support:

  1. Those that fight hunger (48% of survey respondents)
  2. Those that help poor families (41%)
  3. Those that help children (28%)
  4. Short-term disaster relief (28%)
  5. Those that fight diseases (26%) (Statistica, 2014)

Gain guests’ feedback before making your final decision.

Get Going on the Good

Here are a few impactful ways restaurants brands can get involved.


Mealshare partners with restaurants, using the “buy one, give one” model. Partnering restaurants, such as Terroni and Bellwoods Brewery in Toronto, place a Mealshare logo on specific menu items, and when those items are ordered, Mealshare will provide one meal to a youth in need in the local community through their charity partners. As of July 2020, Mealshare had served 3,702,460 meals.

  • Equipment and supply donations
  • Hosting fundraising events
  • Team volunteering in the community
  • Environmental and waste reduction operational improvements

In January 2019, “The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste” report shared shocking Canadian food stats. Unbelievably, 58 per cent of all food produced in Canada — 35.5 million tonnes — is lost or wasted, and a third of that wasted food could be “rescued” and sent to communities in need across the country.


Partnering with Terus (terus.ca), an organization that helps restaurants reduce waste and save money, is one immediately effective solution for restaurant brands in changing these stats and improving our environment. Terus’s team of sustainability and hospitality professionals offer recommendations to restaurants on how to reduce waste while saving money, and to date they have saved more than 200,000 pounds of restaurant waste from landfills.

“At Café Cancan, we have strong environmental values but needed help translating them into action. Terus helped us achieve this goal. Now we’re diverting our organics and recyclables from the landfill (over 30,000 lbs per year!). “ — Victor Barry, Chef & Owner of Piano Piano and Café Cancan (Terus.ca)

Make cause marketing work for your brand, by following these quick tips:

Focus on one partnership at a time.


  • ONE clear goal
  • ONE clear message
  • Simpler for training
  • More impactful communication

Select a less busy time of the year to launch the partnership program.


  • Staff can prioritize supporting the goal
  • Less disruptive for operations
  • Your bottom line will benefit from a lift in sales
  • Utilize every communication channel you’ve got from social media, brand website, billfolds, washroom signage, receipt printing, community groups, and local newspapers to share the goal, and spread the good.

Be sincere and transparent about the “WHY,” find the right partner for your cause, leverage your communication channels, and by doing good, the positive benefits can support building a winning, more socially-conscious restaurant brand.


Written by Kate Engineer, Hospitality Consultant + Communications Expert

Published in Chef Connexion Magazine SS2020, view the Published Article HERE.