Amid coronavirus shutdown, some North Texas restaurants offering free meals

At a time when state regulations are devastating the restaurant and bar industry, some North Texas restaurants are still stepping up to provide free meals to people in need.

As dining rooms shut down, the Hero Restaurant and other businesses are trying to keep their employees working by giving away free meals for pickup to anyone who needs it.

“We want everybody to know of all the things they have to worry about, getting a meal should not be one of them,” said Danyele McPherson, the culinary director of 8020 Hospitality.

On a normal game day, Hero would be packed with Stars and Mavs fans meeting up before the game. But with state regulations shutting down the dining room, the restaurant is looking for other ways to keep employees working and serve the community.

“We’re doing a family meal program that’s free to the public,” McPherson said. “So anyone who’s been affected by coronavirus can come and get a free meal Monday through Friday 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.”

The restaurant group that owns Hero hopes to expand the free meal program to their other locations across DFW.

“At the end of the day, I want to know that we gave something back to the community,” McPherson said. “Because it’s not just our employees. It’s not just the 600 plus who work for 8020. It’s across DFW. Everybody is devastated by this.”

At Mudhook Bar and Kitchen in Duncanville, owner Bryan Kaeser is offering free meals to Duncanville ISD students during lunch hours.

“If I own a restaurant, why wouldn't I be able to chip in and help,” he said.

At first, Kaeser only expected to give away 50 or 60 meals, but he’s now given away more than 675 hot meals.

“Just seeing all the kids that are coming in, getting a hot meal where maybe it’s their one meal a day, it’s just been very gratifying,” he said.

Mudhook has also set up a makeshift market, offering an inventory of goods to the community that might be wiped out at the grocery stores. Donations to the business have helped fund free meals for kids through the weekend.

Javier Canales works for the school district. On his day off, he went in to donate and give back to the kids he’s served for 10 years.

“I’m happy that someone is taking the initiative to help out because we do have several students that do need the help or just families in general,” he said.

“Why not do it?” Kaeser said. “The community needs help so we’re here to help.”

For now, the programs are running on donations. But the restaurant group, 8020 Hospitality, is reaching out to city leaders to see if there are possible grants they can apply for to continue and expand the free meal program as long as needed.