It’s a recipe for relief to soothe the pangs of a global pandemic: Start with 11 chefs located across 10 KeyBank markets, mix in donations to local food banks, and combine them with support to small business restaurants in those markets. Then, stay the course to help those in need.

The activity is all part of KeyBank Assists 2.0, KeyBank’s continuing COVID-19 response effort benefiting communities, small businesses and essential workers.

From Sports to Culinary Arts: The Evolution of KeyBank Assists

Through KeyBank Assists 2.0, which followed on the heels of the bank’s introductory program of the same name, KeyBank has continued to deliver on its pledge to support the small business community, including small local restaurants, at a time when they need this support perhaps more than ever.

“We designed the KeyBank Assists program, and now KeyBank Assists 2.0, to serve as a hyperlocal outreach program that would partner with our sponsorship portfolio and community influencers, along with their social media followers, to directly help small businesses and consumers during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Kelly Reitnour, KeyBank Senior Vice President, Sponsorship Marketing. “The results of both initiatives proved to be even more valuable than we expected. The program was a real win in the successes it achieved bringing support to local communities.”

For the initial KeyBank Assists program, which occurred in April, KeyBank accomplished a similar mission with the help of professional sports figures across local markets. Similarly, KeyBank Assists 2.0, which took place July 6-12, brought additional support to small businesses in 10 selected U.S. markets: Rochester, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Albany, Cleveland, Denver, Portland, Seattle and Buffalo. In exchange for the influencers’ support, KeyBank made a donation to the charity of their choice.

For this program, KeyBank partnered with a national influencer, Chef Robert Irvine, as well as 10 local, influential chefs in each of the selected markets, to promote the effort using their social media platforms to spread the word. The initiative also included a donation of $25,000 from KeyBank to the Robert Irvine Foundation, to be awarded to the charity of Chef Irvine’s choice.

Additionally, KeyBank purchased some $2,500 in gift cards from five small-business restaurants in each local market that were selected by the local chefs and KeyBank market leadership in each area. These gift cards were given to customers of the restaurants as surprise gifts. What’s more, KeyBank matched these gift card purchases dollar for dollar with additional donations to local food banks. Through this partnership, KeyBank supported not only small-business owners, but also those in need in these communities.

“The results of both initiatives proved to be even more valuable than we expected. The program was a real win in the successes it achieved bringing support to local communities.” – Kelly Reitnour, KeyBank

The Results of KeyBank Assists 2.0

The social posts from participating chefs in each market – using the #KeyBankAssists hashtag – proved to be especially successful in reaching large audiences with information and announcements about the event as it was happening.

Positive feedback from local markets as a result of KeyBank Assists 2.0 efforts included a number of comments and stories:

  • In Seattle, KeyBank Branch Manager Boris Pantic and Relationship Manager Dustin Hill went above and beyond for El Patio, a KeyBank client that had been selected as one of the participating restaurants. The owner speaks Spanish exclusively, so Boris and Dustin teamed up to explain the program and encourage their participation. Since El Patio has not previously offered gift cards for sale, the team also created and printed gift cards for the client.
  • In Cleveland, the owners of Sabor Miami Cafe shed tears when they were contacted by KeyBank to participate in the program. Funds have been tight for the business because of the pandemic, which had limited revenues available to cover basic maintenance. Proceeds to the business as a result of the gift cards KeyBank purchased allowed the establishment to make needed repairs, and also made it possible for the owner’s husband to return to work there.
  • In Buffalo, the owner of Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs was extremely grateful for KeyBank having selected his business to participate in KeyBankAssists 2.0, because it was an example of how support for others often comes full circle. Frank is no stranger to giving back himself – he and his restaurant have distributed over 15,000 free meals to hospitals and essential workers since the start of the pandemic.
  • In Pittsburgh, the team at Oakmont Bakery created an impressive video that captured some of the surprise and delight from customers as the team handed out the gift cards and thanked patrons for their support. The video was posted across social media, including on their company Facebook Page.

    Also in Pittsburgh, the owner of Everyday Cafe expressed how important KeyBank’s gift was to help keep her business going during this uncertain time. She was also delighted to hear that KeyBank was matching every gift card purchased with a donation to the food bank. Everyday Cafe had already been partnering with the food bank to distribute meals to about 330 children three times each week, and KeyBank’s gift will help further that mission.

  • In Portland, KeyBank selected an organization called the Portland Mercado to benefit from support. The Mercado houses seven different minority-owned food trucks and restaurants within its establishment, and serves as a venue to help minority-owned businesses and restaurants get started. KeyBank increased the number of gift cards given to Mercado to support these seven food trucks even more.

A Worthwhile Effort

These results help demonstrate how extending the KeyBank Assists program to support local markets and small businesses during these challenging times was a worthwhile and engaging effort.

“We’re so thrilled with the support we received from all of our chef influencers, and with the outstanding response all the efforts received,” said Reitnour. “I’d also like to extend my sincere thanks to the KeyBank Sponsorship Marketing team, including Mark Knierim, Sherry Brown and Kellin Zalneraitis, for their work in spearheading this initiative with such a successful outcome for the community.”