Six years ago, Arby’s unveiled its foundational training program, Brand Champ, which is a purpose-driven workshop designed to inspire and empower team members to reach their personal and professional goals. Since its inception, more than 380,000 team members across Inspire Brands have been able to experience the Brand Champ program. And Shannon Gardner, an Arby’s district manager in Southern Utah, is one of them.
For Gardner, attending a Brand Champ session is what encouraged her to cycle 300 miles over three days as part of the Arby’s Foundation Meat Pedalers team, raising money to help end childhood hunger through Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry.
“I’ve been with Arby’s more than 25 years now. I had heard about so many of our team members and general managers who struggled with childhood hunger and it was really shocking,” Gardner said. “We were in a Brand Champ class and learned about Chefs Cycle and how the restaurants come together to raise funds and awareness for No Kid Hungry. I just remember at that moment saying to myself, ‘I want to do this.’
“I wanted for our guests and team members to see this is so much more than asking for donations during our fundraisers. We’re making real efforts to make a difference across the country and in our local communities.”
For months, Gardner trained and prepared for the grueling 300-mile journey. When a spot opened up on the team in January 2019, she was well-equipped for the ride and took part in raising $1.6 million — translating to 16 million meals — in support of No Kid Hungry.
Gardner has continued to be involved in the program this year, completing a solo 300-mile trek and checking in virtually due to the COVID-19 outbreak. She was also instrumental in obtaining a grant from the Arby’s Foundation to support the local Tan’s Treats program, which has helped provide nearly 7,000 meals per week to food-insecure children in Southern Utah.
For Gardner, she can track these efforts back to her inclusion in the Brand Champ program as an encouragement to set a goal and accomplish it.
“This type of program is what’s going to make a brand successful,” she said. “It’s about caring for your team members, learning about what matters to them and supporting them in following their dreams. It doesn’t have to be some life-changing goal, but Brand Champ can be an avenue to find something powerful to support.”