It’s been nearly eight months since Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast, but for many in the affected areas, recovery is still a long time coming.
That’s why nearly 2,000 restaurants across the nation are teaming up on Wednesday, June 19, for National Dine Out Day, an event that will raise money for the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund.
Funds collected during the event, which is being led by New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christie, will go toward rebuilding New Jersey communities destroyed by last fall’s storm.
Partnering restaurants—which range from national chains to local, independent operations—will donate anywhere from 15 to 50 percent of the day’s total sales to assist in stocking food pantries, providing financial counseling for families who have lost homes and jobs, rebuilding homes, and economic development.
“We’re hoping to just continue raising funds so that we can be there for the long-term need of people in New Jersey,” says Eileen Lofrese, communications director with the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund.
At Auntie Anne’s 1,000 domestic locations, the brand will be donating a percentage of the day’s sales to the foundation, a figure that chief marketing officer Heather Neary expects to ring in at nearly $10,000.
“We’ll also be collecting loose change from all of our guests through coin counters that we’ll have on that day,” she adds.
Not only does the brand have roots in the New Jersey coastal area, but some of its team members who also affected by the devastating storm.
“There’s still lots of folks we know throughout the state of New Jersey who are still recovering and still experiencing major heartache as a result of Hurricane Sandy, and we want to make sure we’re reaching out to those folks and keeping the message alive,” Neary says. “Long after the national news media walked away from the story, there’s still a lot of recovery that needs to be done.”
Partnering with the New Jersey Relief Fund for National Dine Out Day also reinforces the Auntie Anne's founding belief in giving back to the communities in which it operates.
“Our participation in this and other fundraising events really helps to build on [our founder’s] vision to serve others and to make a difference in our local communities,” Neary says.
The Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, along with its National Dine Out Day restaurant partners, have been working hard to get word of the event out to customers.
National Dine Out Day provided marketing materials to participating brands, and celebrities like John Bon Jovi and Chef Mario Batali have partnered with the organization to do promos on billboards and radio.
At Auntie Anne’s, Neary says each unit has point-of-purchase materials to advertise the event. It also sent out a “Pretzel Perks” e-mail blast to its 500,000 newsletter subscribers, activated its mommy blogger network, and is working in coordination with the folks at National Dine Out day to take advantage of national marketing opportunities.
“We want to make sure that we’re sharing the message with as many people as possible, and with Auntie Anne’s having more than 1,000 locations, we do hope to be able to get that message out across the country,” Neary says.
By Mary Avant