When the COVID-19 pandemic began in the U.S. last year, a Virginia restaurant’s customers stepped up, hoping to ensure the restaurant’s survival through tough times.
One year later, Perfectly Frank’s customers are still stepping up — this time to ensure the community makes it through what are still challenging times. Customers are paying for meals and leaving receipts on a board. Anyone who is hungry and wants something to eat can take one, no questions asked, and redeem it at the register for some food.
Tarah Morris, the owner of the restaurant that has been on Old Dominion University’s campus for nearly 16 years, said people have been donating money since the start of the pandemic, and that money has gone to feeding the homeless in the area.
The idea for the board of free meals came after a donor came in with $100 for each member of her 15-person staff. After two staffers returned their share, there was $700 leftover, Morris said.
“We felt like it was kind of a nice chunk to do something bigger,” she said.
She added: “We don’t ask any questions. We don’t need to know what the details are. They could be eating it themselves. They could be bringing it to a neighbor. They could be dropping it off to a homeless guy on the corner.”
The “Franks for Friends” board inside the restaurant shows a host of potential meals already paid for by customers, each costing about $10. The board has messages of kindness like, “If you want more kindness in the world, put it there.” A few of the receipts are signed by various families.
“We don’t even feel like we’re doing anything,” Morris said. “Customers are donating money for us to buy meals for people in need.”
Restaurants and bars add most jobs:As restaurants hire and COVID cases fall, the U.S. economy gains 379,000 jobs in February
Perfectly Frank features a wide variety of foods from hot dogs to burgers to salads to “any kind of melt you can imagine,” Morris said. It’s a restaurant with a tight-knit staff and signs everywhere — a place where people sign the walls to mark when they’ve passed through.
The support from the customers, for both the restaurant and the community, has been “uplifting,” Morris said.
“We know that we’re in existence because people choose us, and we’re grateful,” Morris said.
The drive has been going on for two weeks and Morris said just under 50 customers have picked up a free meal. There have been no reports of anyone taking advantage of the situation, she said.
Coronavirus pandemic:Famous Las Vegas restaurant Lotus of Siam weathered COVID-19 with preparation, foresight
Hopefully, the goodwill of customers will keep the program going for as long as Perfectly Frank is in business, Morris said. A supply of prepaid tickets isn’t the issue — the restaurant is trying to get the word out about the potential meals.
A sign in front of the restaurant reads: “If you’re broke and hungry, we got you!”
“The giving has been more plentiful than the receiving,” she said. “We have a clipboard with, I don’t know, 100 more tickets on deck, waiting to go up on the board. People want to help. They are driven by helping somebody.”