Actors Remember Their Food-Service Roots to Help Restaurants in DoorDash Ad

Delivery service teams up with The Martin Agency for 'Without Restaurants'

four actors

States and cities across the U.S. are in various stages of reopening in the wake of Covid-19, but food-delivery service DoorDash is issuing a reminder that the coast is far from clear for the restaurant industry.

DoorDash called the pandemic the restaurant industry’s greatest challenge to date, and its dependence on their survival is fairly easy to see: To sustain a food-delivery service, there has to be food to deliver.

“Restaurants are being decimated by Covid-19,” DoorDash head of consumer marketing David Bornoff told Adweek. “Our focus is pretty singular: What can we do to keep people ordering from restaurants and keep them in business? [We want to] make sure they understand that restaurants need support today, more than ever.”

The company and The Martin Agency gathered a handful of celebrities with ties to local restaurants to participate in the “Without Restaurants” campaign, aimed at detailing what life would be like without people’s favorite spots.

Actor Tate Donovan directed the campaign.

Actor Tate Donovan (The O.C., voice of Hercules) directed the campaign and participated, and he was joined by:

  • Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man)
  • Mike Colter (Marvel’s Luke Cage)
  • Ana de la Reguera (Nacho Libre)
  • Comedian George Lopez
  • Ming-Na Wen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., voice of Mulan)

The Martin Agency found that at least 30% of Americans’ first jobs were in the restaurant industry—a statistic executives figured was “much higher” for actors, said Steve Sage, the agency’s art director, vice president and creative director.

“Those clichés are clichés for a reason. It was not hard to find actors who had worked in restaurants; it was hard to find actors who hadn’t worked in restaurants,” Sage said.

The restaurant industry’s flexibility allows for schedules beneficial for aspiring actors who need to attend casting calls and auditions. Celebrities in the campaign were connected to the industry in some way, whether they worked at restaurants, had family who owned them or had opened their own establishments.

The celebrities share stories about the local restaurants where they worked and how those jobs helped shape their careers, as well as special moments.


“There are millions of commercials about doing your part,” Bornoff said. “We needed a different way in. How do we tell that story in a way that can break through and connect emotionally with people? It doesn’t feel like we’re making a joke of the situation, but the campaign does treat it with a little bit of irreverence.”

Sage agreed, saying that the object wasn’t to make a little fun of the difficult times, but to share a serious message, saying of the celebrities who participated that they were “so thankful for restaurants that they were willing to be in this commercial and make a little fun of themselves for the greater good of restaurants.”

The “Without Restaurants” spots will debut on digital platforms today and air on television later this month.

DoorDash also detailed social initiative the #GotMyStartChallenge, in which the celebrities will turn to platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to post throwback photos and tag the restaurants where they worked, encouraging users of those platforms to follow suit.

“Our job has to be this singularly focused thing,” Bornoff said. “What happens to a world without restaurants? What do you miss out on?”


The Martin Agency
CEO: Kristen Cavallo
Executive vice president/chief creative officer: Karen Costello
Executive vp/executive creative director/managing director: Jerry Hoak
Creative director: Jonathan Richman
Vp/creative director: Steve Sage
Associate creative director: Deric Nance
Senior vp/head of integrated production: Tasha Dean
Executive producer: Tricia Hoover
Vp/business affairs director: Dusty Slowik
Senior vp/group account director: Jordan Muse
Account Supervisor: Katie White
Account executive: Robert Clark
Senior vp/managing director, cultural impact and brand communications: Jaclyn Ruelle
Cultural communications, senior executive: Matt Kessler
Strategic planner: Blake Smoral
Project manager: Lindsay Marshall
Planning supervisor: Santia Nance
Paid social supervisor: Chris Tracy

Production company: Untitled Inc.
Director: Tate Donovan
Director of photography: Paul Cameron
Executive producer: Jim Evans
Line producer: Denny Kennedy
Editorial Company: Cut+Run
Editor: Frank Effron
Assistant editor: Brad Dupuie
Executive producer: Michell Eskin
Producer: Brian Mulvey
Color Grading: Apache
Colorist: Steve Rodriguez
Producer: Caitlin
Audio post: Rainmaker
Mixer: Bob Arno
Executive producer: Kristin O’Connor
Studio manager: Isaac Whalen
Voiceover: James Nelson David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.