If the “Big Boy” mascot had been pressed back into service at Shoney’s Restaurant in Hillsville last Wednesday, customers would have seen the lad put down his burger to give local law enforcement a pat on the back and a free meal.
President of Young & Associates Brian Spencer said the free meals to law enforcement and first responders was suggested during a Franchise Advisory Committee (FAC) conference call on July 18 with Shoney’s Corporate. (Young & Associates’ territory includes seven Shoney’s in Southwestern Virginia and Eastern Tennessee.)
According to Spencer, every person involved with the meeting last Monday agreed something had to be done in support of law enforcement and first responders in the light of recent tragedies, and the quicker the better. Chief Executive Officer David Davoudpour lent his support and suggested making it company-wide.
Spencer cited Davoudpour’s (and the company’s) commitment to providing community service and scholarships as well as an appreciation of law enforcement’s role in public safety for naturally expanding the suggestion. FAC members were also in agreement a response should happen the following week because the country is in a time where police officers are feeling besieged by negative press.
“It’s a way to give back to them. Recognizing them for what they give us all the time,” Spencer said. “We try to be active and respond to our communities. We felt they needed a pat on the back, saying thank you.”
He added that stores decorated with blue balloons to honor officers with a party-like setting. Spencer said officers put their lives on the line everyday for citizens and the FAC and Shoney’s Corporate felt the gesture was the least it could do under the circumstances.
“I hope we reached a lot of officers with this. We had 10 days to get the word out and we called local departments and fraternal police organizations,” Spencer said. “We all just felt very strongly that the police deserved a thank you right now.”
Officers spoken to informally during lunch hour agreed overall they have felt a lot of support locally. They said they felt generally small towns and rural areas have a longstanding tradition of supporting neighbors and law enforcement in spite of cases of the opposite dominating national news.
Servers and staff at Shoney’s said just like in movies, officers are thought of as regular customers to the restaurant and already had a comfortable rapport with employees.
“It’s (the free meal day) a good thing. Our people have been saying they’d like to do things like this more often,” said Shoney’s Supervisor Mamie Lloyd. “The servers and staff have all been positive.”
She said most of the participants were eating off the buffet, a necessity for officers who could be called away from a meal at any time. Lloyd said a thank you to law enforcement and their families was well deserved, if not overdue.
Shoney’s employee and Hillsville native Josh Sexton, who was serving his first day up front following more than a month of training on the back line, said he was particularly enjoying the free meal day. Sexton, a 38-year old who said he has been involved in food service since he was 16, had a different perspective from working at other restaurant chains which only allow a minor meal discount for police who are on duty.
Sexton said he was really enjoying being with a franchise which allowed its employees to go that little extra mile with community service.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on [email protected]