PepsiCo Foodservice CMO: 'People want to see action; they don't want to see words'

John Krasinski talking about PepsiCo's COVID-19 fundraising relief efforts on his show, "Some Good News."
John Krasinski talking about PepsiCo's COVID-19 fundraising relief efforts on his show, "Some Good News."

Scott Finlow talks about the company's COVID-19 relief efforts and offers advice for the industry.

PepsiCo has been supporting the restaurant industry and its workers since coronavirus began hitting the country in March, and now, the food and beverage giant has furthered its commitment with the launch of new COVID-19 relief effort initiatives. 

With eight million restaurant workers currently unemployed and three percent of restaurants in the U.S. - about 30,000 total - closed permanently due to the pandemic, PepsiCo announced on Tuesday that it will expand on its commitment of $50 million to COVID-19 relief. To continue raising money for restaurants and their workers, PepsiCo will host a number of virtual events, such as a live nacho-making competition between celebrity chef Guy Fieri and actor Bill Murray. The "Nacho Average Showdown" will take place on May 15 at 5pm EST on Food Network’s Facebook page, and it will be judged by NBA star Shaquille O'Neal and actor Terry Crews.

Campaign US caught up with PepsiCo Foodservice CMO Scott Finlow to talk through the company’s relief efforts and hear his learnings so far throughout the crisis. 

Once PepsiCo, which is "essential" as the largest food and beverage corporation in North America, made sure its own employees and frontline workers were safe and healthy, Finlow said the company’s marketing team kicked its focus toward consumers and customers to see how everyone was feeling. Those learnings, specifically about how much the virus was affecting its customers (restaurants and their workers), sparked the idea for PepsiCo to commit $1 million to help launch the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (RERF) created by celebrity chef Guy Fieri and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF). 

"People want to see action; they don’t want to see words," said Finlow.

From there, PepsiCo worked with actor John Krasinski to have him surprise Fieri on his show "Some Good News" with the announcement of the company’s additional $3 million commitment to RERF. Krasinski’s daughter also drew the Pepsi logo for the show - and now - fans can purchase a t-shirt or tote with this hand drawn logo on it at Sevenly.org to further support RERF.

The "Some Good News" announcement came together in 48 hours or less, Finlow told Campaign US, and the RERF partnership with Fieri took 14 days to go from idea to execution. "Drinks on Us," another PepsiCo relief initiative in which the company offered consumers around the world a free Pepsi on April 18 for qualifying takeout orders to encourage them to support restaurants, came to life in a matter of days. 

Before COVID-19, Finlow said these sorts of efforts would have taken weeks or months to execute, but now what matters is "really acting fast, making decisions and streamlining priorities." 

In addition to moving quicker, Finlow told Campaign US that he’s learned the "importance of resilience and being able to embrace ambiguity" throughout the last couple of months. 

"We wake up many days not knowing what’s going to happen or what the consumer response will be or if states will be reopening, but we need to recognize that and embrace it and work through it."

He added that company and department heads need to be more caring, empathetic and positive than ever through these uncertain times. 

"It’s never been more important to be inspiring and optimistic as a leader. We’re not quite sure what’s happening, but we have to help people by making sure we come out of this and that we come out of it stronger," said Finlow. 

"It’s an amazing time to be working as a marketer and building brands in ways that meet consumer behavior and needs. It’s a difficult and challenging time for sure, but it’s also dynamic and exciting," he added.

When it comes to the foodservice industry, Finlow said he thinks a number of changes will permanently stick due to coronavirus - but he doesn’t know to what degree or extent. Some of his predictions include: Higher safety and quality expectations around how food is prepared and delivered; further innovation in the restaurant delivery space; and a the launch of a new generation of restaurants built with purpose in their DNA. 

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