Canadian Pizza Magazine

Creative for the cause: fresh ideas for doing well, while doing good

Colleen Cross   

Features Business and Operations Marketing charity marketing marketing marketing tips marketing week

Take away some fresh ideas for doing well, while doing good

The pizza industry is no slouch when it comes to promoting and supporting good causes. Judging by the number of charity efforts linked to independents and chains, community giving is in its DNA.

The pizza industry is no slouch when it comes to promoting and supporting good causes. Judging by the number of charity efforts linked to independents and chains, community giving is in its DNA.

Gabriel Pizza  
Cory Boast of Gabriel Pizza says it’s important to encourage ideas from staff. “Sometimes the best ideas are not your own.”


We know why it’s good to give our time, money and talent to charity, but just how to go about it is another matter.


The most successful giving strategies are tied to the culture of a company, says Corey Diamond, a partner in Realized Worth, an international firm with a Canadian office in Toronto that helps companies engage employees in corporate volunteering and giving.

Diamond suggests you take a three-tiered approach to giving: raising funds for or promoting a visible cause such as breast cancer research, supporting a local cause, and getting behind causes that mean a lot to your employees.

These strategies work for all businesses, he says. “People are motivated by three things: mastery, autonomy and purpose. No matter what they do, they are searching for meaning and purpose in life. Any business, from a small pizza business to a large multinational corporation, has the opportunity to connect their employees to a grander purpose.”

Sherri Sodhi, marketing consultant for Pizza Depot, headquartered in Brampton, Ont., learned a thing or two about cause marketing last year. In 2013, she guided the company in raising $15,000 for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation through various fundraising efforts.

Pizza Depot’s main purpose, says Sodhi, was to raise funds to fight breast cancer and create awareness in the community. “We noticed there were a lot of businesses out there in our South Asian community but we also noticed a lot of them were not linked to any charity group. A lot of South Asian women are affected by [breast cancer]. Either they are ashamed or they ignore it. They don’t have the support of their husbands.”

They decided to think, literally, outside the box. Working with the foundation, they designed a symbolic pink pizza box. Customers at all 20 franchises were encouraged to upgrade to the pink box at a small cost knowing a percentage of that purchase would go to the cause.

The campaign required a mammoth effort of planning, marketing and co-ordinating. “We sent out 100,000 flyers every two weeks for each of 20 stores. So it was a lot of work.”

But success could be measured in boxes. “We’d count each box, and because we’d designed special boxes for the campaign…we knew how many were going out. It was easier to measure.

“For that campaign we put the logos on the flyers as well and had a coupon underneath. So that’s how you measure success as well in terms of how many flyers are coming back with the coupon.”

There were challenges. “Pizza doesn’t fall under the heading ‘healthy eating,’ ” she says. To convince the foundation they would make a good partner, she visited the director in Brampton and got approval from the Toronto office.

“The best thing to do for each store, when you send out your mailers or flyers or post cards, is to make sure you keep the radius to the stores,” she says. “Also, change the box around for each campaign to help measure your results.”

Richard Ames, president of Daddio’s Pizzeria in Grande Prairie, Alta., has a different take on targeting his efforts.

Ames has developed some avenues for corporate giving. “We will now give a donation of pizza to any worthy cause and go a step further to help the causes with feeding their volunteers. When we are aware of an event for charity we supply each of the volunteers at the event with a gift certificate for a free personal pizza.”

He is now offering prize kits containing a t-shirt and 8-1/2 by 11 magnetic memo board – both bearing the Daddio’s name – along with a gift certificate for two pizzas. He pegs the retail value of the prize at $60 but says the cost to the pizzeria is $5 for the shirt, $1 for the memo board plus the price of the pizza named on the certificate. Items are appropriately housed in a Daddio’s pizza box bearing the slogan “Think about pizza.”

Ames hatched the idea after noticing silent auction announcement pages for community causes on Facebook, some boasting more than 3,000 Friends.

Organizations and events they’ve provided with silent auction gift certificates, volunteer gift certificates and prizes include the SPCA,, firefighters associations, a senior citizens golf fundraiser, HIV North, YMCA, Ronald McDonald House and the Royal Canadian Legion’s “Repair the Roof” campaign.

The money spent brought tangible results, Ames says. In the last three months, he gained 600 new customers, far and above the roughly 175 new customers he has added to his database over the life of the business. Shares and Likes on the Facebook page are way up.

“We believe it is a triple-win situation,” he says. “The charity wins because they are able reward the volunteers, the volunteers win by receiving a token of appreciation, and we win because we get a chance to have people try our product.”

Gabriel Pizza, an Ottawa-based chain, has a secret to corporate giving success  – keep things local. The 31-location chain, whose locations are largely in eastern Ontario and Hull, makes special pizzas for local causes. Its CHEO, Bluesfest and Dragon Boat pizzas have proven to be big fundraisers and hits with customers. The company donates a portion of the sale of each pizza to three causes, namely, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), the Ottawa Bluesfest and the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival. 

Gabriel Pizza also serves as food sponsor for CCS Relay for Life events in Ottawa, donating more than 300 pizzas each year to teams and volunteers at the event. The company is something of a sponsor extraordinaire, assisting Run for Dad, Cystic Fibrosis and many other grassroots community projects, sports programs and education programs.

Cory Boast, vice-president of operations, oversees the company’s marketing. He says Gabriel likes to put its efforts into community causes and events that are close to home in every sense.

Five years ago, after a staff had first-hand experience with the good work done by the children’s hospital, Gabriel did its first CHEO radio station promotion. Each year since, listeners vote for an official CHEO pizza: $1 from every medium and $2 from every large CHEO Pizza is donated to the fund for operating rooms at the hospital.

It isn’t always easy keeping up with so many events, but having a mobile kitchen has allowed staff to attend them while at the same time promoting the business. In turn, Boast says, the company’s involvement gives worthwhile causes good visibility.

The company’s efforts have got great results. Case in point: Gabriel raised more than $36,000 through the CHEO pizza radio promotion.

The large volume of calls tied to various cause-related products is another measure of the initiatives’ success. They need only consult their database to see that a program is working.

He encourages everyone to got to staff for ideas. “Sometimes the best ideas are not your own.”

 “The key is to just get started. Pick something you love and start doing it. It’s good for business and it puts you in a different light with your customers. Every company should be giving something back.”

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