Bennigan’s doesn’t wait for patriotic holidays to pay tribute to America’s military heroes. Like many other brands, its franchisees offer varying discounts to active-duty, reserve and retired service members on Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Veterans Day.
But Bennigan’s commitment to supporting veterans goes much deeper.
When he was recruited in 2011 to lead the iconic Bennigan’s brand back to its former glory, CEO Paul Mangiamele instituted a program that waives the company’s franchise fee for all qualified and honorably discharged veterans. Operated through Bennigan’s membership in the International Franchise Association’s VetFran program, the franchise incentive offers a total savings of approximately $35,000.
The initiative is Bennigan’s contribution to “Operation Enduring Opportunity,” a program developed by the IFA “to hire as team members and recruit as franchise business owners 75,000 veterans and military spouses and 5,000 wounded warriors by 2014.”
In addition, proceeds from the sale of Mangiamele’s book, Bennigan’s Return to Relevance: Bleeding Green 25/8, benefit “Operation Enduring Opportunity.”
On March 27, 2012, a man walked into Bennigan’s in Borger, Texas, bought a beer and wrote a note in memory of a fallen soldier, his friend LTJG Frankie Toner. It was the third anniversary of Frankie’s death in Afghanistan, and the man asked that the beer and note be left on the bar that night to honor Frankie’s sacrifice.
The bartender was so touched by this gesture, she took a picture and posted it on her Facebook page. The photo went viral and quickly caught the attention of the Bennigan’s home office. Guests across the country were later invited to do the same for their military heroes. Thus began Bennigan’s Wall of Heroes.
The tradition continues each year as guests are invited to recognize a military hero in their life at their neighborhood Bennigan’s. In 2013, the campaign kicked off on Memorial Day and ran through Veterans Day, generating donations to the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, a leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to rebuilding the lives of severely wounded veterans of the War on Terror.
Guests are invited to purchase a drink in honor of anyone that is currently serving or has served in the U.S. Armed Forces. They are then asked to write a message on a Wall of Heroes notecard supplied by their server, take a photo of the drink and the message, hashtag the photo with #WallofHeroes and upload it to Twitter or Instagram. Guests may also email the photo to email@example.com.
For every #WallofHeroes photo uploaded, Bennigan’s donated $1.00 to the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes.
In 2013, the World Franchising Network recognized Bennigan’s for its multi-faceted outreach to veterans by selecting the company to its Top 50 Franchises for Veterans in 2013. The WFN’s fourth-annual survey conducted for USA Today evaluated companies on a wide array of measures, including veteran representation in senior management and franchise ranks, programs specifically created to attract veterans and discounts offered on initial investment, franchise fees and on-going royalties. The Top 50 were selected from a pool of more than 425 applicants.
“It’s certainly gratifying to be recognized on the Top 50 list, but we’re not in this for the accolades,” stressed Mangiamele. “We’re in it for our country and, selfishly, we understand that nobody knows what it means to work hard and be committed to a cause more than a veteran. We want them in the trenches with us at Bennigan’s.”
In October 2013, Bennigan’s signed on as a national sponsor of an extraordinary cross-country cycling trek by Paralympian Rob Jones, a combat-wounded retired Marine.
What makes Rob Jones Journey so unique is that he will be pedaling his bicycle for 5,400 miles using prosthetic legs. Jones set out from Bar Harbor, ME, on October 14th, and he doesn’t plan to quit until he’s reached the sandy beaches of San Diego sometime this spring.
Jones is attempting to raise $1 million for three charitable organizations – including the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes – that helped him most during his darkest hours after he was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan, resulting in double above-knee amputations of both his legs.
“I’ve been inspired by many exceptional veterans in my day, but it’s hard to top what Rob is undertaking,” said Mangiamele. “Not only has he sacrificed his limbs for our freedom, and brought home a bronze medal for Team USA at the London Paralympics, but he’s now putting his body to another incredible test to raise money for veterans charities. I’ve never made an easier decision than to sponsor Rob Jones’ Journey.”
In addition, Bennigan’s is proud to offer a 10% discount to all U.S. veterans and active duty service members at participating locations through December 31, 2014. (Military ID required. Not valid on alcohol.)