In today’s dynamic and socially conscious consumer landscape, it’s important for franchise brands to actively give back to their communities. By engaging in philanthropy, supporting local causes, and participating in community initiatives, franchisees can not only contribute to the well-being of their communities but also build positive brand awareness. This involvement helps build a genuine connection with consumers who increasingly value companies that align with their ethical and community-centric values. The act of giving back is a strong brand differentiator, fostering loyalty and setting these businesses apart in an increasingly competitive market. As the Vice President of Franchise Sales of Noodles & Company a nationwide fast-casual franchise, I have witnessed firsthand how prioritizing the communities in which your organization operates can make a tremendous impact on your franchise as a whole.
Delivering Uncommon Goodness
At Noodles & Company, we are committed to delivering Uncommon Goodness. This is a term we use to describe our brand identity and Uncommon Goodness serves as our core brand platform. From how we treat our team members and create unique guest experiences, to how we positively impact our surrounding communities, we infuse Uncommon Goodness into everything we do. At Noodles, we have established a culture of giving back year-round, amplifying our impact through a variety of initiatives that resonate with the values of our diverse consumer base including donation events, local school fundraisers, cultural celebrations, and more.
One of our most well-received initiatives is our Mac & Cheese Trade-Up events, a testament to our innovative approach to giving. At select Noodles & Company locations, we host events where guests generously donate a box of Mac & Cheese and, in return, receive a comforting bowl of Wisconsin Mac & Cheese on the house. What makes this initiative truly special is the ripple effect of kindness it creates. The donated Mac & Cheese boxes find their way to local food banks, nourishing those in need and fostering a sense of community and care that goes beyond the walls of our restaurants.
Noodles & Company is also actively involved in supporting local educational institutions through our school fundraising nights. Throughout the year, various Noodles & Company locations host fundraising events, contributing a portion of the night’s sales to participating schools. This not only provides much-needed financial support to local educational institutions but also strengthens the bonds between our local restaurant and the communities we serve.
Noodles & Company’s give-back initiatives do not stop at restaurant-hosted events – we go further by actively participating in local cultural events. Our franchisees proudly engage with the community during special occasions such as Black History Month, Pride, Hispanic Heritage Month, and more. By aligning ourselves with these celebrations, we send a clear message of support to team members, guests, and the community at large. It is a tangible demonstration that diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords to Noodles but integral aspects of our identity.
Building on this commitment, we celebrate Pride Month every year with our signature Pride Crispy. Our Pride Crispy offering is available throughout June each year and serves a dual purpose. Not only is it popular among our guests, but it also contributes to an important cause. Each Pride Crispy purchase directly supports Out & Equal, an organization dedicated to workplace equality. To date, Noodles has donated $45,000 to Out & Equal. Additionally, an interactive QR code on each Crispy’s nutritional sticker leads customers to a dedicated webpage, offering information on LGBTQIA+ facts, history, and the significance of Pride Month. This thoughtful addition aids in education and awareness for our guests.
We take our dedication to fostering a workplace culture where all feel welcomed a step further by recognizing crucial national holidays so team members have dedicated time off to celebrate. Company-wide, we observe the 4th of July holiday and Christmas Day by closing our restaurants to ensure our team members and guests can take the time they need to reset and be with friends and family. We also offer team members floating holidays so they can enjoy time off during the holidays that are most important to them. All team members who are veterans also receive the day off on Veterans Day and we extend paid time off to all team members during election periods to exercise their voting rights.
Placing Our People First
A key pillar of Noodles & Company is placing our people first. The establishment of our Noodles Resource Groups (NRGs) PROUD and THRIVE demonstrate our ongoing efforts to create a workplace where team members can be their authentic selves. These groups provide a safe space for sharing ideas and support, acknowledging and celebrating the differences that make each team member unique. We have expanded our Noodles Resource Groups over the years and our franchise partners have become engaged participants in this program. Our franchisees bring diverse perspectives to our NRGs contributing to the vibrancy of our company culture. Additionally, we created the Noodles & Company Foundation to help improve the well-being of our team members by providing financial assistance during times of hardship as well as scholarship opportunities. Since its inception, the Team Member Giving Fund under the Noodles Foundation has provided nearly $1 million to team members and their families.
Another crucial way we support our team members year-round is through our industry-leading team member benefits. We offer paid parental leave, surrogacy, and adoption assistance, as well as gender-neutral bathrooms across our restaurants. We also implemented a Noodles Self-ID program that encourages team members to list their pronouns on name badges, fostering a more inclusive environment for both team members and guests. In collaboration with the National Restaurant Association, we also provide training on Understanding Unconscious Bias in Restaurants, highlighting our dedication to continuous learning and improvement.
As we navigate the evolving landscape of consumer expectations, it is clear that genuine community engagement is not just a corporate responsibility but a strategic imperative. Franchise brands that actively participate in philanthropy and community initiatives not only contribute to the well-being of their surroundings but also create a lasting connection with customers. This connection goes beyond transactional relationships and transforms guests into loyal advocates who appreciate and support a brand with a social conscience. As we move forward, let us continue to recognize the profound value of giving back, understanding that the positive ripple effects extend far beyond immediate community impact, shaping the identity and success of franchise brands in a meaningful way.