For nearly 18 years, “Peace, Love, and Crabs” has been the t-shirt slogan for Joe’s Crab Shack.
But from September 21 through 28, the Houston, Texas-based chain will modify its motto to “Peace, Love, and Kids” and donate a portion of those shirt sales to Share Our Strength’s campaign to wipe out childhood hunger in America, the Great American Dine Out.
“I just respect the organization so much,” says Ray Blanchette, the CEO of Joe’s Crab Shack and Great American Dine Out board member. “Their mission is terrific. Ending childhood hunger in America is a worthy cause and we are jumping in with both feet. When we handed off this project to the marketing team, they became so excited because of the meaning behind it. When you see how meaningful this is, how can you not get excited about it?”
That’s just the kind of response Share Our Strength officials are hoping to inspire among others in the foodservice industry. The Washington, D.C.–based charity’s mission is to help the 12.6 million American children who are at risk of hunger. The Great American Dine Out is part of that effort.
For one week in September, restaurants across the country will contribute 1 to 5 percent of sales to the campaign. Some, like Joe’s, will designate the proceeds of a menu item or product to the cause.
“So far, 3,000 restaurants have signed on,” says Debbie Shore, who co-founded Share Our Strength in 1984 with her brother, Billy, in response to the famine in Ethiopia. “Our goal is to hit 5,000 by September.”
This is the first year quick-serves are actively being recruited. Quick-serves already on board include: Captains D’s, Caribou Coffee, Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits, Wendy’s, and Buffalo Wild Wings
“We are trying to close the systems gap for people who can’t get nutritious food for their families,” Shore says. “That means school breakfast and lunch programs or after school meal programs. Our strategy is to increase access to public and private programs providing food those who need it. If we can galvanize the [quick-service] sector, we can make sure that all children have access to nutritious food.”
Since its inception in 2004, The Great American Dine Out has raised more than $200 million. Funds raised through the campaign are granted to programs promoting and facilitating youth access to nutritious foods. Funds are also granted to organizations that offer high-quality nutrition education to low-income families through Share Our Strength’s Operation Frontline.
With 12.6 million children facing hunger, a consolidated, industry-wide effort is essential to make a significant impact, says Alicia Thompson, vice president of communications and public relations for Popeye’s. “We think this is very important, and hope more food and restaurant industry chains will get involved,” she adds.
To encourage brands to get involved, Share Our Strength is providing marketing and promotional tools and accepting enrollment as late as September 27.
“We know profit margins are tough right now, but even if they made a contribution of $100 for the week, and we captured the attention of every quick-serve restaurant, it would mean $25 million,” Shore says.
“I’m calling people I know in the industry to get on board,” Blanchett says. “This is an opportunity to pull together, make a difference, and influence our reputation.”