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National Restaurant Association - Elevate your restaurant’s customer relationship with philanthropy

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Elevate your restaurant’s customer relationship with philanthropy

For Charlotte, N.C.-based Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, brand goals include engaging in philanthropy, developing connections with restaurant guests and serving delicious food and drink. To tap into these priorities, Firebirds partnered with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), which raises money and awareness for childhood cancer causes and research.

Since 2012, Firebirds has raised more than $1 million for the nonprofit, continued to open new restaurant locations and deepened engagement with customers in the process. Its integrated marketing strategy keeps buzz pumping throughout the year, both inside and outside of its restaurants’ walls. Due to the chain’s steady growth and positive social media performance, Fishbowl named Firebirds one of its 2017 Emerging Brands.

To raise awareness for ALSF on an ongoing basis, whenever a guest orders Firebirds’ house-made lemonade at any of Firebirds’ 40-plus locations, $1.25 of the cost is donated directly to ALSF. Firebirds menu and website showcase the ALFS logo and mission. Kids’ meals feature ALSF cancer hero photos. Training for restaurant staff covers ALSF messaging, so if a guest has any questions, Firebirds’ employees are equipped with knowledge about the partnership.

Additionally, every June, Firebirds participates in Alex’s Lemonade Days by setting up lemonade stands at Firebirds’ locations and corporate offices. A glass of lemonade at the stands typically sells for $3, and 100 percent of the proceeds are donated to ALSF. If customers are unable to attend the Lemonade Days, Firebirds encourages them to donate online.

A key component of Firebirds’ fundraising success is social media marketing. On its Facebook and Twitter pages, Firebirds provides local event listings for the lemonade stands, inspirational stories about ALSF heroes and the Firebirds landing page on the ALFS website where donations can be made at any time. During the Lemonade Days, local Firebirds employees post photos of people enjoying themselves at the Lemonade Stands.

“Our feedback and comments on social media are really positive,” Firebirds digital marketing manager Christine Lorusso said. “We receive a lot of engagement. You can tell people care.”

Firebirds also promotes its ALSF partnership to members of its Inner Circle loyalty club via email marketing. By sending Save the Date notifications for Lemonade Days, directing recipients to the online donation page, and enabling them to make a restaurant reservation within the e-newsletters, Firebirds has effectively increased its fundraising totals year over year. Click rates and open rates remain high and unsubscribe rates remain low.

“We’ve seen an uptick in ALSF engagement with our Inner Circle members. They want to join us in the fight against cancer,” Lorusso said.

To encourage customers to join its Inner Circle, Firebirds runs Facebook and Instagram ads, and in-store staff drive registration as well.

This content was provided by National Restaurant Association sponsor Fishbowl.

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