#These restaurant chains are keeping us sustained and entertained

These restaurant chains are keeping us sustained and entertained

You may not know Fernando Machado, but you are probably familiar with some of the marketing and branding campaigns he has run for Burger King. A few years ago, at Pride week in San Francisco, the fast-food chain sold a limited edition of the Whopper burger, wrapped in rainbow-colored paper. When opened, customers found the same familiar Whopper they’d known for years. The campaign’s message? “We’re all the same inside.”

More recently there was a time-lapse BK ad that shows a Whopper accumulating green mold over 34 days. Its tagline: “The beauty of no preservatives.”

“The idea was to illustrate that we use only fresh, preservative free ingredients,” says Machado, global vice president and chief marketing officer of Restaurant Brands International which includes Burger King, Popeye’s and Tim Hortons. The commercial was so cutting-edge that Ad Age wrote, “There are only two eras in advertising: ads that came out before Burger King’s Moldy Whopper, and ads that came out after.”

But, during the COVID-19 epidemic, outrageous ads are tasteless, says Machado, who has won numerous awards from Ad Week, Andy Awards, Cannes Lyons, and others, and will be a keynote speaker at the June 5 Brands Across America webinar. “They don’t reflect how society feels. The first thing we thought about (when COVID-19 arrived) was how we could step in and help people. That’s more important than advertising and social media at this moment.”

Restaurant Brands International (RBI) concentrated on setting up new practices for store employees, like wearing masks and gloves and taking employees’ temperatures, contact free. They redoubled sanitizing and cleaning standards, updated the drive-through experience and added contactless home delivery.

However, with schools closed, RBI recognized that some children who depend on academic institutions for their meals, might go hungry, so they set up a program that provides two kids meals free of charge whenever an adult makes a purchase via the Burger King app. More than one million kids’ meals were given away nationwide.

In New Orleans, Popeyes pledged to give away one million meals to those affected by COVID-19 through a partnership with customers who stepped up to help. They sold a “NOLA Strong” package for $28 that consisted of 12 pieces of Popeye’s fried chicken, two sides, six biscuits, a Popeye’s brand “NOLA Strong” t-shirt and a hat, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Second Harvest Food Bank, the largest anti-hunger network in Louisiana.

“You cannot go wrong when you help people,” says Machado.

Tim Horton’s, whose locations are primarily in Canada, used coffee trucks to give away free java and baked goods to doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers and others who serve the communities they are in.

Machado has since added a little fun and service into his promotions which are meant to bring a little laughter into your life during quarantine, and to remind you to stay safe at home and to feel good about your purchases. One ad suggests that you are a patriot for lazing around at home, using the slogan: “Your country needs you to stay on your couch and order in. Do your part and we’ll do ours. Order through the Burger King app and the delivery fees are on us. So, staying home doesn’t just make us all safer — it makes you a couch potatriot.” The ad also promises to donate Whoppers to nurses and to support the American Nurses Foundation.

More recently BK put out ads with the intention of making quarantine fun. One of them features a QR code dancing around on a TV commercial. “If you can catch it and scan it with your phone, Burger King might have something for you the next time you order on the app,” says Machado. “It doesn’t feel like advertising, it feels like fun.”

Now that things are beginning to open up and people are slowly venturing out, what can we expect from Burger King? “There are a lot of unemployed people, so we’ll have to deliver good value,” he says, without providing more of a hint.

Of course, advertising, branding and marketing aren’t worth as much if the employees on the front and back lines don’t feel cared for, safe and well-treated. At BK, and others, employees who work during COVID-19 earn a bonus, Machado didn’t reveal the amount. And if they get sick with COVID-19, two weeks paid time-off is provided.

When it comes to what working from home looks like for Machado, he says that in one way work is becoming more structured because you have to set up a call to talk to a colleague instead of walking by and popping into their office. But that’s just one side of the story.

“Before, if you were working from home and your child made noise, it would feel awkward. Now, I was in a video call with global executives when my young son came to me asking for more yogurt, it seemed normal. New normal,” he says. “I think we’re all becoming more flexible, more empathetic.”


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