Indianapolis restaurants are optimizing openings to continue serving free food

Here are a few restaurants in Indianapolis that are open for dinner this Christmas

Corrections and Clarifications: An earlier version of this story indicated an opening date for Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh. The restaurant has since postponed its opening to an unspecified date.

Among the many things the coronavirus has done is the opportunity to camp outside an opening restaurant all night to be among the first customers and get freebies.

But new restaurants in the Indianapolis area still want to celebrate launches with customers. That’s why they adjusted their opening routines to include rehearsal, entertainment, and loot.

The I Heart Mac & Cheese franchise, which opened in Westfield in June, gave its first customer to sit in a chair in front of the store overnight a free meal every month for a year. The same goes for the other new store openings, including the opening of the location near West 10th Street and Indiana Avenue in the fall, said co-owner Matthew Griffin.

Chick-fil-A’s first 100 events, probably the most iconic opening ceremonies in the country, are overnight parties where the first customers get free meals for a year. The events were suspended during the pandemic. Now stores are selecting selected community members to receive digital cards for one year’s meal supplies.

When Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh opens at 1349 E. 86th St., it will target influencers by coordinating a special event for Yelp power reviewers and inviting other influencers to have a free meal at their convenience, franchisee Lee said Smaller. Before the pandemic, the restaurant may have hosted a party for the community.

“We were concerned about people lined up by the door. We’re not sure we can do that, ”said Kleiner, who also owns local Which Wich and Dairy Queen stores. “In the past it was very random. no invitation. We’d promote it and people would just line up. It was very easy. “

“The most important thing is to try to comply with CDC regulations,” he said.

The tradition of giving every visitor a free fresh falafel has been optimized. Now customers put one of the fried balls on waxed paper to reduce human contact.

“We’re eliminating the exchange between hands,” said Kleiner.

Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh was scheduled to open on August 31, but has postponed the opening.

Opening parties provide publicity, but restaurants could better serve the community and still get a profile boost by donating meals to those in need, said Darren Tristano, CEO of FoodserviceResults, an industry research and consultancy firm.

“COVID has made it harder for these businesses to do this. So they have to expand in different directions to create excitement and motivate the operators on site and so the customers know that they are there and getting upset, “Tristano said,” what they are trying to do is positive, but this one Giving meals to people who are most in need could be a better opportunity for them – people who have lost their jobs or have families and young children in need financially. Caring for those who need it most would likely benefit them. “

Customers camp ahead of the February 2020 opening of Joella's Hot Chicken in Mason, Ohio.

Joella’s Hot Chicken is preparing to distribute weekly chicken meal gift cards (valued at $ 7.99) for one year to the first 100 adults in the store opening at the Cool Creek Commons shopping complex the week of September 7th and is expected that people bring their tents and camp.

The store is the chain’s fourth in Indiana and the first to open since the coronavirus led to restaurant closings nationwide.

“We had a lot of conversations. Our ultimate goal is to ensure the health and safety of our guests and our employees, “said Katie Wollrich, marketing director of the Louisville-based chain, which was founded in 2015.” The best part about everything we’ve learned about COVID is that gatherings in the The outdoors are safer. “

Guests can line up 24 hours before the opening. Social distancing markers will be on site and staff will be wearing masks.

The company will try to keep much of its festival atmosphere at the Overnighter, but the traditional cornhole and other games and activities have been cut.

“We’re eliminating them because we don’t feel we can do them safely,” said Wollrich. “We have thought of every detail to make sure we can safely do this based on the current guidelines.”

T-shirts that would have been given out to guests are no longer part of the plan as they require too much rummaging through boxes to find certain sizes. Instead, staff will provide other loot for guests, she said.

By default, a DJ will play music from 4 a.m. to keep the energy going.

And the campers are still served free chicken and waffles when it opens at 8 a.m., but they have to take the food packed with disposable cutlery outside.

Gift cards are handed out before the shop closes so that employees can regroup for the lunch service.

“Part of the whole thing is about this family feeling,” said Wollrich. “They are loyal fans and they are so excited when we get into the community.”

“We are pleased that we can continue this tradition in these COVID-19 times.”

Contact IndyStar reporter Cheryl V. Jackson at [email protected] or 317-444-6264. Follow her on Twitter: @cherylvjackson.