At the Bob Evans restaurant in Boardman, customers can get a little extra flavor with their meal.
You can’t find it on the menu.
You can’t put a price on it.
It’s not potatoes, and it’s not pie.
Since last September, the Pledge of Allegiance has been said twice a day — at 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. — every day at the restaurant.
It’s not just said by Fred Griffin, the manager.
Or Sally Canavan, the inspiration for the idea.
It’s said by everybody:
The guy visiting from Sandusky who just got breakfast.
The Vietnam vet having the burger special.
The regulars at the counter whose orders are known by all staff.
And the wait staff as they work the tables.
OK — the crew in the kitchen might skip if the choice is red, white and blue vs. cold, burned and goo.
Other than them — all else and others come to a stop twice a day to recite 31 special words.
“We have some regulars who will remind us, ‘Don’t forget the Pledge,’” said Griffin, who’s been on staff for seven years.
Pledge practice started last September as the 9/11 anniversary was nearing. Fred said it was the idea of longtime server Canavan. She knew it was done at a restaurant elsewhere in the U.S., Griffin said, and she suggested it for Bob Evans.
Griffin said it did not take long to consider. They just kind of did it.
The two times per day are somewhat fluid — 8:30-ish and 6-ish. It usually comes down to the crowd and the rush.
Over the restaurant’s loudspeaker, a staffer will start in with a tidbit or two of the day or week. On Friday, it was a bit about air pressure in your tires. Then, like in school, the staffer invites guests to rise and join in the saying of the Pledge.
A flag looms over the dining room behind the counter. It’s stoic but not grandiose. It somewhat reflects Griffin’s style about their effort. He knows what they do is unique and not by the script. An easy smile stretches across his face when you ask. And when he talks, he’s not proselytizing or in-your-face about America or patriotism.
It’s just simply what they do: their part.
Griffin said occasionally, unsuspecting customers will continue on in what they were doing, without realizing what was going on. Then they realize.
“We have one regular — a Vietnam veteran — who sits right at the table over there,” said Griffin, pointing with the authority of a boss who knows his turf. “If you don’t rise, he’ll glare at you. These two girls were talking and on their phones, and he was glaring, and they realized all that was going on, and quickly jumped to their feet.”
He said the daily recitals are met with about 90 percent participation. Only a couple of times have customers shown opposition to the activity, and they gave Griffin an earful.
But most participate and are grateful, like a Berlin Center couple who happened upon the place recently at a time of the Pledge. They sent a card to Griffin thanking him and saying they’ll be stopping back next time they’re in the area.
Griffin stops short of saying the Pledge is profitable in terms of extra crowds at that time. But he knows there are people who know of it and come at that time for that reason.
A nationally run business can be touchy about such things. But Griffin said corporate bosses are supportive and are taking a wait-and-see approach to doing the Pledge elsewhere.
Monday is a special day for America and the people who served and died protecting this land.
We have several such days per year to honor the military and America.
On those days, Griffin and his team perform the Pledge every hour on the hour.
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