PepsiCo Leans into Pandemic Assistance Programs for Restaurants and Workers

During Page Up’s 2020 Annual Conference, PepsiCo’s Gina Judge was one of two awarded the annual Innovation Award, recognizing members who develop and implement groundbreaking approaches that are used by their organizations to chart new pathways in the profession. Gina’s leadership led PepsiCo to create and execute an impactful campaign that raised more than $20 million in financial assistance for 40,000 US restaurant workers during the pandemic. 

The COVID-19 pandemic hit restaurants and their workers particularly hard. With 8 million workers unemployed, more than 3 percent of all restaurants (approximately 30,000) already closed, and countless others struggling to stay afloat. As a leader in the foodservice industry, PepsiCo developed a program with three objectives: 

  1. Leverage PepsiCo’s financial resources and marketing communications expertise to help restaurants and industry workers
  2. Bring together employees, partners, customers and consumers to increase awareness of the hardships that restaurant workers face and enlist them to help provide immediate relief.
  3. Achieve all this in an empathetic way that fosters a genuine connection between PepsiCo, our customers and consumers.

PepsiCo teamed up with celebrity chef Guy Fieri and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) to become a founding member of the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (RERF), committing $1 million to help kickstart the initiative. The fund provided $500 grants to industry employees who’d been impacted by COVID-19, either by a significant decrease in wages or loss of employment.  They built on this initial contribution with a series of creative virtual events and activations that rallied partners and the public to donate. Additionally, as many Americans were cooped up in their homes, they developed creative ways to engage people and harness their desire to help during the pandemic by safely supporting restaurants and their workers.  

To launch the campaign and mobilize Americans in support of the foodservice industry, PepsiCo executed a three-part approach to mobilize consumers and enlist partners to take action and create immediate impact: 

Establish Commitment 

PepsiCo first demonstrated its commitment to communities by giving $50 million from the PepsiCo Foundation to COVID-19 relief efforts. This included their $1 million founding pledge to the RERF. 

Mobilize Others to Engage and Give Back 

They mobilized consumers to engage and give back through a series of special events, spanning everything from an online “dinner and a movie” event to a virtual nacho-making competition. Each event drove awareness and encouraged donations to the RERF. 

Leverage Internal and External Partnerships 

PepsiCo partnered across its brands, the PepsiCo Foundation and a network of external partners to support and amplify its efforts to promote the RERF. Its programs included: 

  • PepsiCo promoted a video of Guy Fieri encouraging employees to donate and take advantage of the PepsiCo Foundation’s double match of their contributions. 
  • Announced an additional $3 million commitment to the RERF on John Krasinski’s digital show Some Good News. One of the best parts of the surprise included a Pepsi logo drawn by Krasinski’s daughters. Pepsi then invited Americans to support the RERF by purchasing limited-edition gear featuring the logo.  

  • Bolstered eateries through “The Great American Takeout,” which encouraged Americans to order at least one meal a week. 
  • Debuted a virtual “Dinner & A Movie” event, which included a film screening and live discussion with notable chefs on how they’re finding creative ways to help restaurant employees.
  • Launched “Nacho Average Showdown,” a virtual nacho-making competition hosted by Guy Fieri and Bill Murray to raise awareness and donations to the RERF. 
  • Published tips on to help foodservice operators do everything from reopening their doors to reimagining their businesses. 
  • Promoted all initiatives across owned social channels, within PepsiCo and via external partners or the RERF.

Compelling Results

PepsiCo acted as a catalyst that not only invested in communities, but also leveraged its communications and marketing power, and encouraged all of its stakeholders to give, ultimately multiplying the impact. By all measures, the program was a resounding success, bringing together employees, partners and customers to raise widespread awareness and support the foodservice industry.  Key results included:

  • Generating 3.7B impressions across media and social platforms. 
  • PepsiCo’s additional $3 million commitment, announced through Some Good News, helped push the fund past the $20 million mark — allowing NRAEF to provide grants to 40,000 workers. 
  • PepsiCo’s earned media integration tied to Some Good News drove media conversation across lifestyle, business, entertainment and food verticals, garnering 607MM impressions (70 earned media stories; 1,000+ social mentions). To date, the episode has been viewed 3.9MM times, with the special edit receiving 208K views.  
  • PepsiCo’s logo merchandise racked up $28K in May alone, the total proceeds of which benefited the RERF and earned 570MM impressions. 
  • “Nacho Average Showdown” raised more than $3MM and made a splash across national television, kicking off with a segment on The Tonight Show, followed by mentions on The Today Show, Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen. Spurred on by widespread coverage in top-tier placements (such as Delish, Thrillist and Huffington Post), the virtual event received 331K+ views and 443MM impressions. 
  • PepsiCo’s employee donations and double match program raised an additional $39K. 

Other success measures included: creating goodwill and boosting morale and activation among employees; creating a halo effect for PepsiCo brands and helped build brand equity during a time when much of traditional advertising and marketing had been paused; strengthened relationships with existing restaurant and foodservice partners; attracting new candidates and distinguishing PepsiCo from other companies.