Cause Branding

Empowering Franchisees to Do Good

Sonny's BBQ Random Acts of BBQ

More than 1,600
RABBQ nominations
3.5 million
earned media impressions
system-wide cause program


Sonny’s BBQ was founded in 1968 in Gainesville, Fla., by Sonny Tillman and his wife Lucille, when their dream was to open a local BBQ joint for their community to enjoy. Today, Sonny’s BBQ is headquartered in Winter Park, Fla., and has 115 locations across the southeast United States. Although it’s the third largest barbecue chain in the country, Sonny’s BBQ continues to manifest a local feel that brings communities together, just like it has since it opened. In January 2014, Crossroads was tasked with building the first signature cause program for the nearly 50-year-old brand. In the past, community involvement was independently determined by the individual franchisee and as a result was non-existent or lacking in several key markets. Sonny’s wanted a system-wide cause program while still remaining true to the spirit of a local, neighborhood BBQ experience.


A few months later, Sonny’s BBQ and Crossroads officially launched Random Acts of BBQ (RABBQ). The program is the unexpected recognition of those who spark the spirit of BBQ in their communities. Those “sparks” can range from a non-profit volunteer or little league coach, to a single mother who is struggling to make ends meet, but is still teaching her children the power of volunteerism. Recipients of RABBQ are surprised, alongside family and friends, with a fully catered BBQ feast to recognize all they do. In order to have the greatest impact possible, Crossroads implemented several marketing and communication tactics. This included media relations efforts in Sonny’s 95 markets, a dedicated and mobile-optimized website, social media and email marketing content development, employee engagement and training and in-store marketing.


Crossroads met and exceeded all objectives set forth for the first year of the RABBQ program. During a six-month timeframe the program received more than 1,624 nominations and garnered more than 3.5 million earned media impressions.