FAT Brands Serves Up a Charitable Venture

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Charitable giving is on the upswing, and consumer shopping behavior and multi-location brands can sway perception via charity-related campaigns. But “doing good can go bad” when companies launch charity efforts without being thoughtful and transparent. That’s why multi-location FAT Brands put significant thought and effort into creating its newly-launched FAT Brands Foundation.

Philanthropy tied to a for-profit multi-location brand delivers three benefits:

  • Helping the people and organizations who receive donations
  • Improving consumer perception of the business
  • Engaging locations in selecting charities in their local markets gives them a sense of empowerment and community engagement.

Employees and suppliers will also be deeply involved in FAT Brand’s selection of philanthropic causes.

FAT Brands’ newly-formed Foundation is led by Jessica Wiederhorn and also has four other diverse and intergenerational Board members who have experience in the non-profit sector.

Its stated mission is “to provide essential programs to help families and communities thrive,” and its focus is on local causes.

The giving strategy at a local level is still in development, but all grants will go to 501(c)(3) within a 25-mile radius of a FAT Brands location. The organization has 17 brands and more than 2,300 locations. The Board has not yet set a donation cap.

FAT contributed the first $250K to the Foundation. That investment will be used entirely in 2023, with the company footing all administrative expenses. The grant submissions to date are related to health, food insecurity, arts and culture, education, and child development.

“This was a natural progression in the evolution of FAT Brands,” says Wiederhorn. “Our FAT Brands community is like family, and we want to have a positive impact in the areas in which our brands are located.”

The fast-casual, quick-serve, casual dining and polished casual dining concepts within FAT Brands are Round Table Pizza, Fatburger, Marble Slab Creamery, Johnny Rockets, Fazoli’s, Twin Peaks, Great American Cookies, Hot Dog on a Stick, Buffalo’s Cafe & Express, Hurricane Grill & Wings, Pretzelmaker, Elevation Burger, Native Grill & Wings, Yalla Mediterranean and Ponderosa and Bonanza Steakhouses.

FAT Brands is not the only multi-location company to launch and manage its own foundation. Others include Home Depot, LL Bean, Publix, LL Bean, Wegmans, and Patagonia.

According to a recent study by giving platform Classy, the next generation of consumers is four times as likely to learn about causes from influencers and celebrities than traditional donors. Therefore, aligning cause marketing with specific brands may be a solid strategy for growth and loyalty if properly executed.

Especially as AI and automation within multi-location brands impact the perception that companies are ruled by robots rather than people, creating ways to give back to humans may become a solid differentiating strategy.

But donors and Foundations, beware! Unless the giving process is well conceived and grants are given to trusted organizations, philanthropy can backfire. Today’s donors are savvy and selective.

“Having run a non-profit (Society of Saleswomen.org) for several years, I’m especially attuned to transparency and selectivity,” says Wiederhorn. “Giving to the right causes is as important as the number of donations. We will be pragmatic, thorough, and inclusive while reviewing grant applications.”


Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in Inc.com, the New York Times and Forbes.