Knowing that many needy children are at home with no meals during the day, restaurants across the area have begun offering free and reduced meals.
And in the midst of the Florida governor ordering that restaurants can only be at half-capacity — with patrons spaced far apart — the leaders of area eateries have begun offering incentives for people to use the drive-thru, curbside pickup and delivery services.
Here is a breakdown of what some restaurants are doing across the area:
Mini City, Englewood
When Glen and Stacey Wilson, owners of Englewood food truck Mini City, started serving free childrens’ meals and bottled water this week, they wanted to spread the love as far as possible.
Local businesses stepped up to help them by providing parking space.
Along with W.R. Carlson Roofing and Westcoast Church early in the week, Wednesday’s host will be Gulf Coast Hardware, 975 S. McCall Road; Thursday’s, Loving Care Veterinary Hospital, 2011 Englewood Road; Friday’s, Wellbaum & Emery, 686 N. Indiana Avenue; Saturday and Sunday’s, Castle Air, 121 N. McCall Road. Hours 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Isabella’s Bistro, Placida
Isabella’s Bistro, not only shaving 20% off early-bird takeout orders, also offered: “If you know of any children who are in need of food during our hours, please do not hesitate to call us immediately. Nobody as of today has taken us up on it, but we will feed any child or children in need for free.”
Sam’s Subs & Soup, Port Charlotte
Although no one took her up on her big-hearted offer, Sam’s Subs co-owner Renée Petro posted on behalf of all first responders: “All my police, fire and medical peeps, Sam and I will watch your littles for free. If y’all need a place for them this week, they can come color and watch movies at Sam’s, as we probably won’t have much eat-in business. Oh, and we will feed them for free. ... If I get overwhelmed, I’ll call on all of my friends.”
Uncle Nick’s Pizza, Port Charlotte
Community-conscious owner Nick Wrasse at Port Charlotte’s Uncle Nick’s Pizza is known for delivering free pizzas through crises like tornadoes, hurricanes and family tragedies.
Wrasse explained, “I want to let the community know that we’re all in it together.”
He recently posted, “With the recent announcement that schools will be closed ... if you find yourself ... struggling with the added cost of these meals, please reach out to us. We will do everything that we can to have a hot, fresh pizza made available to any parents in need.”
So far, Wrasse has provided 10 free pizzas, with toppings included, thanks to local donors who asked to help him pay it forward.
Hashtag Pizza, Venice
Hashtag Pizza, a Venice food truck vendor open on Fridays and Saturdays, announced on Twitter it would help students with free lunches. Well-wishers donated $600 to the cause in just a few days.
“Parents of free lunch students, the schools sent out a paper at the beginning of the year stating that your student would receive free or reduced lunches. Bring this paper to Hashtag Pizza. We refuse to profit from your loss,” the company posted on Twitter.
Flapjacks Cafe, Venice
The idea was picked up on VeniceFoodies.com, which started tweeting #WeCare: Free Kids Meals. Within days, a number of restaurants offered their own deals.
“During this time when our schools are closed unexpectedly, Flapjacks Cafe wants to aid our families in the community. We’ve been there. We understand,” the restaurant tweeted.
VeniceFoodies.com lists these deals currently being offered for kids and families:
Hashtag Pizza (food truck)
• Free slices for students, up to 20 a day total
• 18-inch thin crust pizza for $7 for free/reduced-price lunch students
Venice Ale House
• 20 free kids meals per day total
• Kid’s meal includes burger and fries
• Kids meals are by reservation only
Le Petit Jardin
• Two free kid’s meals with each adult entree purchase
• Pick up/take out/ dine in
• 15 free kids meals per day total, with reservations
Big Mike’s Pizza
• Pizzas for students priced near cost
• 14-inch cheese for $5, 16-inch cheese for $7, 18-inch cheese for $8
• Two free slices per kid, up to 40 kids daily
Shark Bites Deli
• Free kid’s meals until school comes back
• Free meals for free/reduced-price lunch kids between 7 and 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.-noon
Off The Wagon
• Kids eat free with adult meal purchase on Thursdays
• 15 free kid’s meals per day per location, by reservation only
Mad Dogs Hot Dogs
• A free hot dog, chips and water; children must be present when ordering
Sausage Express (food truck)
• 10 free hot dogs with chips a day at the food truck located in front of Lowe’s on U.S. 41
• Reserve for pickup by calling 941-301-1900
Locally, restaurants offered other deals that were not necessarily for kids alone.
Metro Diner in South Venice introduced Metro-curbside service.
“In light of recent events, we want to offer our wonderful guests a way to feel safe and comfortable,” Metro said online.
Curbside diners will receive a dine-in-only $5 discount card “so when all this blows over, we can treat you to another wonderful meal.”
Other restaurants are serving dinner by reservation only, while some are offering free delivery.
Bob Evans announced free delivery service, and $3 off when eating inside.
Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar announced it will be offering free delivery on Applebees.com and $10 off an order of $30 or more with the code 10OFF30 when ordered online, beginning March 18.
Fast-food restaurants, such as Burger King, Arby’s and company-owned McDonald’s, remain open but have closed their dining areas in response to coronavirus warnings issued statewide and nationally.