Last year, they carried the restaurant during the darkest days of the epidemic with donations. Now, they carry each other – with donated meals.
The restaurant, a staple of nearly 16 years in Norfolk, Virginia, has started a free meal initiative to feed the community with food donations from customers.
Anyone who needs a meal can go to the restaurant, pull a ticket from the “Franks for Friends” billboard and exchange it for a menu item.
“Maybe Covid hit them hard, or they’re in between jobs – or maybe they are just having a meal for their neighbor,” Perfectly Frank owner Tara Morris told CNN. “We don’t ask any questions.”
The initiative started and grew quickly
The idea for “Franks for Friends” began with a single donation.
After the restaurant reopened for in-person dining, Morris said community donations decreased as people felt life returned to normal.
But her staff – mostly undergraduates from Old Dominion University – were struggling to make ends meet.
A friend and longtime client donated $ 2,000 to the restaurant, asked for $ 100 per employee and the rest went to feed the community. With $ 700 left, Morris started offering free meals.
The initiative developed rapidly. Clients have started donating, too. A bulletin board has been installed. Clipboard is set.
“I had no idea this would happen,” Morris said. “We started collecting meals faster than we were giving them.”
Morris said approximately five people demand meals a day – a number that barely negates the amount available. To get more meals, Morris employees prepare bulk orders for local after-school programs twice a week.
In the restaurant, she tries to keep meals on a different billboard.
Hot dogs, salads, and meats fill up the Perfectly Frank’s extensive menu – but the cheese burger is the most popular item.
Free meal customers take their ticket to the registry to redeem it, where they can customize their order and choose a drink.
“It’s not about the money.”
Morris said she receives calls, emails, and messages from people all over the United States who want to support “Franks for Friends”.
One email from Miami, Florida, popped up to her.
He said, “I don’t have a lot of money – I’m already broke – but I saw your story…” And he was full of joy to know that there are good people doing good things in Morris said.
The man later called to donate a meal – $ 10 – but his card was declined.
The Perfectly Frank employee who was on the phone with her put her card details on, and donated $ 20 to his name.
“It was the most influential story, and it only included 20 dollars,” Morris said. “It’s not even about money. It’s about people doing nice things for someone.”
There is no end in sight
Morris said the surplus of donated meals is too large, and she cannot predict an end.
“I hope it lasts forever,” she said. “With the donation coming in, I feel it will never stop.”
Morris said she hopes to partner with more local organizations to offer bulk meals. But for now, she said all that had happened was a much-needed boost in spirits.
“Out of Covid and all the hardships – we didn’t know if we would succeed,” she said. “We went from scratch to as high as you could get. It was so fun, so humble. We know we’ll be fine.”
Morris said Perfectly Frank has served more than 100 meals so far. She doesn’t think she will run out anytime soon.