Heinz Steps in as Small Restaurants Struggle to Get Covid-19 Aid

Condiment brand asks the public to help distribute $1 million

Heinz campaign
The brand is giving $2,000 grants to 500 diners. Heinz

Key insight:

Walk into a local diner located anywhere in the country, and you’re bound to see the following items on every table: salt and pepper shakers, packets of sugar, a napkin dispenser and a bottle of Heinz ketchup. That image, repeated in countless TV shows and films, has been imprinted upon the popular imagination.

Because of its close ties to diners, Heinz recently announced an initiative to send $2,000 checks to 500 of the country’s diners that are struggling in wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. To determine which small restaurants will receive a share of the $1 million fund, the brand is asking people to visit heinzfordiners.com and nominate their favorite neighborhood spot.

“Heinz has proudly stood on diners’ tables for decades,” said Dalia Adler, brand building lead at Heinz. “So now, at a time when every little bit counts, we’re proud to be supporting them.”

While Adler declined to reveal what portion of Heinz’s sales come from restaurants, diners and cafeterias, she said these establishments are a “very important part of our business.”

During the Super Bowl, Heinz ran a four-in-one commercial featuring four groups of people entering an unfamiliar and somewhat sinister setting, only to discover a familiar and reassuring bottle of Heinz ketchup. One of those settings was a diner.

The new campaign, titled Heinz for Diners, was created by Wieden + Kennedy New York. Heinz is currently promoting it across its social media accounts, along with video ads on YouTube and Snapchat.

The program will run until May 31 or whenever 500 diners have been successfully selected. To qualify, diners must be independently owned and able to provide a W-9 tax form.

Experts estimate that around three in four independent restaurants that have shut their doors to prevent the virus from spreading might not survive the outbreak, according to The New York Times. In a recent letter to Congress, the National Restaurant Association asked for $240 billion in recovery funds, as two-thirds of the industry’s workforce have lost their jobs.

In recent weeks, multiple organizations have mobilized relief efforts for the nation’s restaurants. The James Beard Foundation, for instance, is collecting donations to assist small, independent establishments on the brink of going out of business.

However, Debbie Millman, chair of the masters in branding program at the School of Visual Arts, said that Heinz’s donation won’t go very far in offering aid if the grant is just $2,000 per restaurant.

“At a time when many brands are trying to respond to the pandemic with messages targeted to families with hope and gratitude, many of the communications feel opportunistic and cliche,” she said. “While this effort by Heinz is a good gesture, given that the brand is omnipresent in American diners, it feels similar to the stimulus money being given to people who make less than $75,000—it’s not enough.”

Given the nobility of the cause, a campaign like Heinz for Diners is sure to garner positive attention for the company.

“My guess is the earned media on this will be worth more than the money being distributed, and as a result I wish they could be contributing more, ” Millman said.

Last month, the Kraft Heinz Company donated $12 million to communities around the globe negatively impacted by the pandemic.

@hiebertpaul paul.hiebert@adweek.com Paul Hiebert is a CPG reporter at Adweek, where he focuses on data-driven stories that help illustrate changes in consumer behavior and sentiment.