Restaurants want you to know they like rainbows—and gay people, too

Marketing Bites: Chains mark the start of Pride Month, Taco Bell teases more Mexican Pizza and more marketing news of the week.
Chipotle Pride burrito
Photo courtesy of Chipotle Mexican Grill
Marketing Bites

Welcome to RB’s weekly roundup of the latest developments in restaurant marketing.

The march of social change is often very slow. But some progress seems quite swift.

Fifty-three years after brave participants in the Stonewall Riots first gave voice to the fight for gay rights in this country, there’s this tweet from family-dining chain IHOP on the first day of June, widely known as Pride Month:

“S/O to everyone who puts the pan in pancakes,” the breakfast chain tweeted, referencing those who are pansexual. “Happy Pride! (rainbow flag emoji)”

Many have fought and died to arrive at the place in which restaurant chains can casually tweet about LGBTQIA+ lives.  And every year, it seems, more companies are jumping on the Pride Month marketing bandwagon. While some chains are posting rainbows on social media or otherwise expressing support without much backing (a practice widely decried as “rainbow washing”), others are putting some money and thought behind their Pride Month efforts.

A few recent examples:

  • For the second year, McDonald’s is working with LGBTQ-streaming channel Revry to sponsor “House of Pride,” a variety show starring queer performers. Last year’s program was streamed more than 600,000 times. This year’s show premieres Sunday. “McDonald’s fans loved celebrating with House of Pride last year so we’re very excited to bring it back,” Elizabeth Campbell, McDonald’s senior director of cultural engagement marketing, said in a statement. “We’ve been working to partner with more diverse owned media, and a big part of that is our expanded partnership with Revry to create fun and meaningful events that bring together the LGBTQ+ community.”
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill this week launched a year-long program of support for the LGBTQIA+ community. It includes $250,000 in free Chipotle to the non-profit Happy Hippie Foundation’s LGBTQIA+ center partners around the country to fight food insecurity. Starting June 16, Chipotle customers can round up their order totals, with donations going to The Trevor Project. And the burrito chain said it will donate $10 from the sale of each shirt in its new pride collection to The Trevor Project.
  • Noodles & Company is pledging up to $25,000 to the group Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, which fights for LGBTQIA+ workplace equality. Donations will come through the sales of the noodle chain’s Pride Crispy dessert, a rice crispy treat flecked with rainbow cereal. Noodles has created a support group called Proud, for general managers and above, to elevate the voices of LGBTQIA+ employees. The chain also offers surrogacy and adoption assistance up to $10,000, free mental health counseling and gender-neutral bathrooms.
  • Pizza chain Mellow Mushroom is matching the total of all merchandise sold during June with a minimum $10,000 donation to the Human Rights Campaign. The chain introduced a new collection of Pride shirts, sweatshirts, bandanas, caps, fanny packs and more, including a “Festival Kit” of items to wear at a Pride parade. “Since Mellow Mushroom opened its doors in 1974, inclusivity has been a core value of its business,” the company said. “The stone-baked pizza maker accepts all people on a come-as-you-are basis.
  • Taco Bell is hosting drag brunches at several of its Cantina locations, which serve alcohol, around the country. (Or, as the New York Times put it recently, “There may be gayer ways to spend an afternoon at Taco Bell, but it’s hard to imagine how.”)

Supply chain issue or marketing hijinks?

I do not want to alarm anyone … but Taco Bell is RUNNING OUT OF MEXICAN PIZZA. The taco chain, which brought back the wildly popular item just a couple of weeks ago following widespread social media demand, said it has sold seven times more pizzas than last time and that it is running out of ingredients.

In an open letter, Taco Bell said a store in Roseville, Calif., sold more than 1,000 Mexican Pizzas in one day. And one person ordered 80 of the layered entrees.

Taco Bell claims the shortage was not planned. In fact, it is postponing its “Mexican Pizza: the Musical” celebration until a … more celebratory time.

“As soon as we’re able to get the Mexican Pizza back in the hands and stomachs of our biggest fans, it’ll be for good,” the chain said, noting that a fall return is planned.

The pizzas are made with seasoned beef, refried beans, tortillas, pizza sauce, three-cheese blend and diced tomatoes. It’s unclear which ingredients are causing supply chain headaches, though many of those items are used widely across Taco Bell’s menu.

Absence, of course, does make the heart grow fonder. In the case of Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza, we do wonder whether this shortage works to keep the fires burning for the hard-to-get item.  

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