As seasoned marketers, Sean Beckingham and Marian Staresinic know the power of collaboration. So, when two of their foodservice clients approached them about helping Canada’s struggling restaurant industry during COVID-19, the duo immediately got on board.
On April 15, about one month after restaurants were forced to close for on-premise dining, their Toronto-based agency, Branding & Buzzing, launched Canada Takeout — a grassroots movement that encouraged Canadians to support their local restaurants by ordering takeout.
Under the hashtag #TakoutDay, the initiative harnessed the power of social media and digital marketing to draw attention to the plight of restaurateurs across the country and offer diners a way to help.
“All our clients wanted to do something, but didn’t know what to do,” says Beckingham. “It didn’t make sense to spearhead anything on their own. When the [Ontario] government announced restaurants were able to do takeout and delivery, we got a call from Anna Stolee at McCormick Canada saying ‘I want to do something…I want to support [places] that are open right now’ and Marian and knew this was something we could get behind.”
Vince Di Maria, division president of foodservice broker Affinity Group was the next to call and, from that conversation, Canada Takeout was born. “Vince helped bring dozens of brands/companies as partners to [the initiative],” says Staresinic.
But this was not a typical campaign. For one, the team at Branding & Buzzing put it together in record time.
“A typical campaign can be anywhere from six to 10 weeks of planning,” explains Beckingham. “Canada Takeout launched in a month.”
The premise was simple — offer operators a no-cost way to advertise their takeout/delivery offerings and customers a way to find restaurants in their area. By visiting canadatakeout.com, diners can locate restaurants using the Restaurant Finder Map; sign up for the exclusive newsletter, as well as “coming-soon-to-your-area” announcements; find opportunities from operators to save money on their takeout order; and view weekly restaurant round-ups featuring places to eat across Canada.
The response has been phenomenal. In fact, as of August 31, there were more than 14,500 foodservice-operator listings on Canada Takeout and the campaign has built a following of more than 15,000. The website boasts 459,000 visitors and 756,000 page views, paid social for the campaign sits at 17,300,000 impressions and #TakoutDay has 160,150,474 impressions.
“It gave a sense of hope for everybody,” says Beckingham. “It gave everyone the opportunity to help — it gave sales reps reasons to call their restaurants to say, hey, this campaign is coming, so order your supplies’ and gave restaurants a sense of hope that they could start making food again. It was a very level-playing-field approach when the controversy was happening around third-party-delivery apps. [Canada Takeout] had nothing to do with delivery fees — it’s a free service for both users and restaurants.”
While the campaign started with Wednesdays, Staresinic says they’re now trying to encourage people to “make any day takeout day.” And the Branding & Buzzing team is not content to rest on its laurels, making sure the campaign stays top of mind for people. To accomplish this, the team created thematic days such as Pizza Day, Soup Day and Curry Day.
“It gave people a chance to celebrate a moment in time — especially in a time when there’s not a lot to celebrate,” says Beckingham.
On a personal note, Staresinic says the Canada Takeout campaign was also a great opportunity for the Branding & Buzzing team.
“[It] allowed us to work on something altruistically with our team. We always seem to be client and deadline driven, but with Canada Takeout, it was a Branding & Buzzing-owned initiative, so that allowed us to work with our team in a different way — allowed everybody on the team to get personally and emotionally involved. We worked 50 to 60 hours a week for the first two to three months and we were all tired. But, it feels pretty damn good now, because we’re having this interview with you. Being recognized is so touching for me.”
Originally published by Amy Bostock on Foodservice & Hospitality.