A Virginia restaurant is giving away free meals, no questions asked

Last year they carried the restaurant through the darkest days of the pandemic with donations. Now they are carrying each other – with donated meals.

A nearly 16-year-old staple in Norfolk, Virginia, the restaurant launched a free food initiative to help provide the community with food donations from customers.

Anyone who needs a meal can go to the restaurant, withdraw a ticket from the “Franks for Friends” notice board and exchange it for a menu item.

“Maybe Covid hit them really hard, or they are between jobs – or maybe they are having a meal for their neighbor,” Tarah Morris, the owner of Perfectly Frank, told CNN. “We don’t ask questions.”

The initiative started and grew quickly

The idea for “Franks for Friends” started with a single donation.

After reopening the restaurant for personal dining, Morris said community donations had decreased as people felt a sense of normalcy.

But her staff – mostly Old Dominion University students – struggled to make ends meet.

A friend and long-time customer donated $ 2,000 to the restaurant and asked that $ 100 go to each employee and the rest to feeding the community. With $ 700 left, Morris began giving away free meals.

The initiative developed quickly. Customers also started donating. A notice board was set up. A clipboard has been set.

Perfect Frank's donation clipboard.

“I had no idea that was going to happen,” said Morris. “We started collecting meals faster than we were giving them away.”

Morris said roughly five people consume meals a day – a number that barely scratches the amount that is available. To get more meals out, Morris employees prepare bulk orders for local after-school programs twice a week.

In the restaurant she tries to keep the meals on the bulletin board differently.

Hot dogs, salads, and melts perfectly populate Frank’s extensive menu – but cheeseburgers are the most popular items.

Customers with free meals take their ticket to the cash register to redeem it. There you can adjust your order and choose a drink.

A perfect Frank cheeseburger and hot dog.

“It’s not even about the money”

Morris said she got calls, emails and letters from people in the US who wanted to support Franks for Friends.

She noticed an email from Miami, Florida.

“He said, ‘I don’t have a lot of money – I’m actually broke – but I saw your story …’ and he was so delighted to know that there are good people out there who do good things in this mess,” said Morris.

The man later called to donate a meal – $ 10 – but his card was declined.

The Perfectly Frank employee who spoke to him on the phone entered her card details and donated $ 20 on his behalf.

“That story was the most touching, and it was only $ 20,” said Morris. “It’s not even about the money. It’s about people doing nice things for someone.”

The sign in front of Perfectly Frank invites customers to a free meal.

there is no end in sight

Morris said the excess of donated meals is so great that she can’t foresee an end.

“I hope it goes on forever,” she said. “With the speed with which donations are coming in, I feel like it will never stop.”

Morris said she hopes to work with more local organizations to give away bulk meals. But at the moment she said everything that happened was a much-needed boost.

“We left Covid and all the hardships behind us – we didn’t know if we would even make it,” she said. “We went from zero to as high as possible. It was very uplifting, very humble. We know we will be fine.”

Morris said Perfectly Frank has given away over 100 meals to date. She doesn’t think they’re going to go out anytime soon.

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