In the midst of perhaps the bleakest month American restaurants have ever traversed, a bright spot has emerged in the form of #TheGreatAmericanTakeout movement.

After a successful launch on Tuesday, March 24, the newly formed coalition of brands, which now includes Panera Bread, Del Taco, Veggie Grill, Applebee’s, and many others, will double down on their efforts and look to repeat last week’s success with #TheGreatAmericanTakeout2 on Tuesday, March 31.

The origin of the movement—not even two weeks old, yet—has its roots with Veggie Grill interim CMO Sarah Grover, who challenged the brand’s ad agency, High Wide & Handsome, to come up with some hashtags and taglines to help unite restaurants across the country in sharing the same messaging, hoping to connect with diners looking to support businesses in the midst of this bitter new reality.

“I just kept thinking, we can be so much stronger and bigger if we can create this coalition of amazing people in this industry,” Grover says. “We are much louder and more powerful as an industry together than we are individually. And we all benefit from this effort if we band together.”

The movement grew organically and began to include more and more brands. The hashtag started trending on various social media platforms, and eventually, at least 300 restaurant companies were actively promoting the event. One of the virtues of the plan was that it cost zero dollars to execute, Grover says, as the hashtag’s virality was a grassroots movement that required social media accounts and little else.

“The real beauty of all this is that brands can take and do whatever they want with this,” Grover says. “If they’re running family meal specials, they can continue to do what they’re doing. It doesn’t intrude upon the marketing efforts or communication plan of any one particular company. All they have to do is promote the idea of this one day where we focus on promoting ourselves as a unified front and an industry worth supporting.”

The result of the first #TheGreatAmericanTakeout launch on March 24 was one of the best days, in terms of sales, since the coronavirus fundamentally altered restaurants’ traditional modes of doing business across the U.S. The event’s success spawned #TheGreatAmericanTakeout2, but it’s led some to wonder if the coalition will ramp up efforts to make this a longer term movement as COVID-19 shows no signs of slowing down.

“The question we’re hearing a lot is, ‘Why is it just one day?” Grover says. “Why Tuesday? To be honest, it’s because we want to rally around a particular day, mobilize as many people as we can, and now, the challenge is, how do we keep the momentum?”

For more on how Grover and her PR agency turned #TheGreatAmericanTakeout into a nationwide phenomenon, stream the podcast above.

Marketing & Promotions, Story