Helping Hand: Franchises Step Up With Hurricane Relief Efforts

Numerous franchise brands have been helping, and remain committed to assisting, communities in need after the damage of multiple hurricanes.


Remains of a neighborhood destroyed by Hurricane Irma in Big Pine Key, Fla. FEMA photo by J.T. Blatty.


By Andrew Parker and J.P. Carroll

An unusually strong hurricane season has made the months of August and September particularly trying for people living in southeastern U.S. states and Caribbean territories. In quick succession, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria battered the region, forcing local communities to rally and help one another as state and federal resources were stretched to the limit.

Total damage from Hurricane Harvey is estimated at somewhere in the range of $198 billion, comparable to that associated with 2005’s Hurricane Katrina ($158 billion, or about $194 billion in 2017 dollars). This makes Harvey the most expensive hurricane in U.S. history.


This visible image of Category 4 Hurricane Irma was taken on Sept. 9 at 10:37 a.m. ET by the NOAA GOES East satellite. Photo courtesy of NASA/NOAA GOES Project.


Members of the franchising community have made a point of being actively engaged in their communities during these difficult times. This includes ensuring employees’ safety, feeding rescuers and first responders, cleaning up to reopen stores and facilities, and creating initiatives to raise money. These are some examples of the many franchise businesses lending a helping hand.


Franchises Respond to Call for Help 

• Aaron’s: Aaron’s, the Atlanta, Ga.-based furniture and consumer goods franchise, contributed $100,000 to communities and employees affected by Hurricane Harvey. It also carried out deliveries of bottled water and suspended scheduled lease payments until conditions improve. Nationwide, Aaron’s employees donated more than $45,000 to their Texas colleagues.


• AdvantaClean: Huntersville, N.C.-based AdvantaClean mobilized 200 workers in Texas to help Houston-area franchisees with local cleanup efforts. This included water removal, removing damaged furniture and addressing mold.


• Bar Louie: Addison, Texas-based Bar Louie launched a fundraiser to provide guests and staff with a way to support hurricane victims. On September 14, Bar Louie was donating 10 percent of sales (up to $50,000) to the American Red Cross.


• Buffalo Wild Wings: A nationwide fundraiser was held from Sept. 3-17, during which participating locations matched in-restaurant donations from customers (up to $100,000). Buffalo Wild Wings’ goal was to donate $200,000 to the American Red Cross.


• Club Pilates: The fitness franchise partnered with TPG Growth to raise funding for Hurricane Harvey victims on Sept. 9-10 at participating studios. Club Pilates corporate matched the donations from the effort. The proceeds benefitted the American Red Cross.


• Denny’s: Denny’s of Spartanburg, S.C. reached out to help improve conditions for those in the Houston area most affected by Hurricane Harvey. Denny’s Mobile Relief Diner handed out more than 7,000 free meals in the Houston area to first responders and homeless and displaced families. This massive distribution of free meals took place in the short time span of Sept. 14-19. The philanthropic mobile dining concept then made its way to Florida to help the many people impacted by Hurricane Irma.


Nebraska Task Force 1 works to respond to the effects of Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 29 in southern Texas. FEMA News Photo.


• Dickey’s Barbecue Pit: Franchisees at Dallas, Texas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Pit came to the aid of their Houston-area colleagues after Hurricane Harvey. Franchisees from Colorado and Texas traveled to Houston with a 30-foot smoker to feed those in need. David Montoya of Colorado and Shaun Martin and Amrinder Toor, both from Texas, were among the many helpers who made their way south to Houston. The effort resulted in thousands of meals donated. Visitors who offered help included Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and comedian Kevin Hart. Next stop for Dickey’s Barbecue Pit volunteers was Florida, to assist those affected by Hurricane Irma.


• Hooters: Throughout September, Hooters customers at participating locations donated to the American Red Cross for its relief efforts, with Hooters corporate of Atlanta, Ga., matching customer donations dollar for dollar. Individual Hooters locations have also been staging relief drives for victims of Hurricane Irma in Florida and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.


• Jersey Mike’s Subs: Jersey Mike’s Subs — which learned a thing or two about major storms in October 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey — committed to have its 1,300-plus locations partner with local food banks to help families in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. From Sept. 11-17, participating Jersey Mike’s locations donated $1 for every turkey breast and provolone sub sold to food banks in Texas. For a week starting Sept. 15, Jersey Mike’s gave out special cards that let customers receive a free sub for every $2 donated.


• Little Caesars: The Little Caesars “Love Kitchen,” a mobile kitchen built inside a big-rig truck, took to the road in September to provide meals for people impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The truck has provided hot meals to homeless and displaced families for more than 30 years.


• McDonald’s: McDonald’s Corp. announced a donation of $1 million to the American Red Cross for its disaster relief efforts. It also set up a $250,000 employee matching program. On the ground, local branches donated many thousands of water bottles to the American Red Cross, and Houston-area restaurants provided free meals to first responders.


A handwritten sign of encouragement to the Florida Keys community sits on the side of Overseas Highway in Marathon, Fla. after Hurricane Irma. Photo by J.T. Blatty/FEMA.


• Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt: Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt hosted a fundraiser in early September to raise money for victims of Hurricane Harvey that involved donating 10 percent of all sales to the American Red Cross.


• Monster Tree Service: Franchisees traveled to Texas to cut up trees that were threatening homes, and to remove downed trees in a proper manner. Monster Tree Service employees brought heavy equipment for cleanup operations and related services.


• Papa John’s: Louisville, Ky.-based Papa John’s Pizza committed to donate a minimum of $500,000 to hurricane relief efforts. This total included a sizeable donation to the Salvation Army disaster relief effort. Papa John’s initiative involved donating $1 out of every order that included a pizza.


• Pizza Hut: As Houston’s NBC affiliate KPRC 2 News reported, Pizza Hut franchisee Shayda Habib made sure that her Sugarland restaurant provided food for families trapped in their homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. In view of the extensive flooding in the area, Habib sent her staff out on kayaks, with pizzas in delivery pouches. “When I heard there were families in need, I knew we needed to act fast,” Habib explained. She first called her husband to get ahold of some kayaks, and then planned her unusual delivery routes with her downsized crew. Thanks to Habib’s quick thinking, several families got a hot meal in their most dire hour.


• Our Town America: Our Town America CEO Michael Plummer Jr. followed the footsteps of his father, who founded the company, in offering support to hurricane victims. This included a donation to a Shipley Do-Nuts franchisee in Houston, who decided to use the money to help one of his employees who lost everything in the storm (look for the full story in the upcoming November 2017 edition of IFA's Franchising World).


Members of the Tennessee Air National Guard prepare palettes of water for loading on Sept. 16 at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Franchise businesses have provided supplies and assistance to local communities impacted by hurricanes to supplement government relief efforts. FEMA photo by K.C. Wilsey.


• 7-Eleven: 7-Eleven also stepped up to the plate in assisting communities following Hurricane Irma. Three of the convenience store chain’s Florida locations handed out 4,800 cases of water as local residents struggled to find potable water. Ten franchisees worked together to get the water to people preparing to drive out of the area, as well as to those who were staying put. 7-Eleven’s Irving, Texas headquarters also pitched in with franchisees’ efforts by sending water directly from Irving to Orlando and Tampa in Florida. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that Dhaval Patel, who owns four 7-Eleven stores in Florida, as saying: “We’re here to help the community and get water to the people who are not able to get [it].” Franchisees also gave away food, including snacks, eggs and bread.


• Sport Clips: Georgetown, Texas-based Sport Clips Haircuts gave store employees in the Houston area whose lives were affected by Harvey the opportunity to fill in at stores in nearby markets. And in Katy, Texas, Sport Clips team members helped with rescue and recovery by providing garbage bags and opening facilities for use by rescue personnel. Houston-based area developer Joe Klimek started a Go Fund Me page with a goal of raising $100,000 for local team members. Sport Clips Founder and CEO Gordon Logan quickly matched this challenge, and the goal was increased to $125,000. In addition, Sport Clips helps staff in need through its Wayne McGlone Memorial Relief Fund. In the past five years, the fund has distributed more than $1.1 million to assist 200-plus team members.


• Urban Bricks Pizza: This 12-unit brand based outside San Antonio, Texas reported serving more than 700 pies and delivering 200 to first responders. Deliveries were made by Urban Bricks Pizza franchisees, as well as local residents.


• U.S. Beef/Arby’s: From Sept. 4-10, all 356 Arby’s restaurants operated by the brand’s largest franchisee in nine U.S. states donated 10 percent of all brisket sandwich sales to the American Red Cross. Proceeds were expected to reach $50,000.


• Whataburger: San Antonio-based Whataburger has donated $500,000 to local food banks and $150,000 to the American Red Cross. The chain also pledged $1 million to the Whataburger Family Foundation to help its employees with necessities.


• Find out more about franchise opportunities at these and other franchises on the Franchise Opportunities page at IFA's website,


Do you have a story about how your franchise brand is helping with hurricane relief efforts? Send it to


Andrew Parker is IFA Senior Manager of Publishing and Editor-in-Chief of Franchising World magazine. J.P. Carroll is Associate Editor of Franchising World.


Ways for Franchises to Get Help and Give Back

As communities affected by hurricane damage continue to recover, countless stories are emerging of franchises giving back to local communities. These stories demonstrate the passion and resilience of the franchising community, in the spirit of the Franchise Education and Research Foundation’s Franchising Gives Back program. If you have a story of lending support, please email IFA’s Gionne Jones at


Recognizing that many local franchise owners and their employees still require help, there are various resources to get or give assistance:  


• FEMA’s resources are well known, but many people are not aware that the U.S. Small Business Administration provides disaster loans and business counseling for people and businesses affected by the recent hurricanes.


• If you or your franchisees in affected areas want to contact your elected officials for help, please email, and IFA will assist you in making a direct connection with the appropriate office.


• To donate or volunteer, please consult the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD)’s “How To Help” page.


The International Space Station orbited over Hurricane Harvey and photographed the storm bearing down on the Texas coast in late August. NASA Photo.