Bunnings puts the sizzle in community engagement

Anyone who has researched the best way to raise money for a sporting club, charity, school or community group will know that a Bunnings sausage sizzle is the most effective way to raise about $900 while having plenty of fun.

Recipe for success

At first blush it seems extraordinary that a snag, a piece of white bread, some onions (who cares whether they are on the top or bottom of the sausage) and some sauce would become the foundation of what is arguably the most successful corporate sponsored community engagement in Australia.

Clive Duncan, who has worked at Bunnings for 40 years and is now director of marketing and merchandise, says it all started in Melbourne 25 years ago.

“When we established the Bunnings concept we had this notion in the back of our minds about being in the community,” he says. We talked about this idea of ‘we live here too’.

BCA CEO Jennifer Westacott and the easter bunny during a BCA sausage sizzle in the Senate courtyard at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday 28 March 2018. Alex Ellinghausen

“From our point of view, our teams live and raise their families and work in the local communities, so we wanted to be part of the community in a meaningful way.

“That was how it all started. We looked at ways to engage community groups both in store and outside of the store. As well as the sausage sizzles, we allow our teams to go out and do things in the community, whether it’s painting a community hall right through to planting edible gardens at kindies.”

The first community group invited into a Bunnings warehouse was the Country Women’s Association, which sold cakes and scones at the Sunshine store in Melbourne.

“As we moved around the community and talked to people in sporting clubs and community groups, one of the clubs asked if they could do a sausage sizzle in the store,” Duncan says.

“So it just morphed from there and just grew and grew. It’s not easy to get a slot these days because it’s so popular. It is a great way for communities to raise money and from our point of view it gives the team a chance to partner and engage in a meaningful way.

“It gives community groups the chance to obviously raise money and raise their profile and I think it’s important from customers’ point of view because they can they can contribute to the community and have a fun as well.

“It’s a pretty popular thing to do on weekends, going down to have a sausage sizzle.”

Chewing the fat

The fundraising numbers are impressive. In the past five years, more than 160,000 community sausage sizzles have been held in Australia, including 42,000 in 2018.

In that period, more than $144 million has been raised for various community groups and charities, including $37.9 million in 2018.

These figures suggest that on average, each sausage sizzle raises about $900 after paying for all of the ingredients.

Chanticleer knows someone planning a Bunnings sausage sizzle next month to raise money for the cancer research charity Can Too. This has provided great insights into the logistics involved, as well as the contribution made by Bunnings and its staff.

Each of the 237 Bunnings warehouse stores has an activities officer who manages the roster of sausage sizzle slots at each store.

If you think about the fact that two community groups can be slotted in each weekend, it is possible for each Bunnings warehouse to engage with more than 100 different community groups each year.

It is hard to think of any other corporate sponsored program in Australia that reaches and helps so many people.

It is heartening that both of the country’s largest supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, have been willing to help those involved in the Bunnings sausage sizzle process. Coles offers a $50 discount voucher for those buying sausages, bread and sauce.

Woolworths is slightly more generous. It will give a 10 per cent discount on the purchase of the ingredients. Considering you need up to 70kg of sausages, up to 40 loaves of bread, up to 25kg of onions and about 10 litres of condiments costing about $800, the Woolworths discount is worth about $80.

This is the amount of food needed to meet the needs of people coming to a Bunnings warehouse between the opening hours of 7am and 7pm. The BBQ must be in operation from 8am until 4pm.

Chanticleer was given some sausage sizzle secrets by someone who has done about a dozen of them over the years. He said make sure you always have about 12 sausages ready to sell and another 12 cooking. Also, he said start early to capture the rush of tradies wanting breakfast.

Over the years the rules surrounding the Bunnings sausage sizzle have grown to accommodate the increased regulatory requirements imposed by local councils and to ensure hygienic preparation of the food.

Duncan is convinced that the sausage sizzle is one important reason why Bunnings has been ranked the most trusted retail brand in Australia over the past 13 years in a row, as measured by the trusted brands survey of Reader’s Digest Australia.

Bunnings also ranks second in the 10 most trusted brands published by Roy Morgan Research in November. The top 10 is ALDI, Bunnings, Qantas, ABC, Kmart, ING, NRMA, Toyota, Bendigo Bank and Target.

Our 10 most distrusted companies in alphabetical order are AGL, AMP, ANZ Banking Group, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Coles, Facebook, National Australia Bank, Shell and Westpac, according to Roy Morgan.

It says a lot about the complexity of the community engagement issue that Bunnings, Kmart and Target are highly trusted while Coles is not. At the time of the survey, all were under the Wesfarmers umbrella. That should prompt some searching questions among directors of the new Coles Group.

TONY BOYD

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