It was all hands on deck at the three Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill locations in the Tri-City area.
Pat Mullett, area director of Applebee’s, said last year the chain allowed select stores to honor the nation’s veterans. However, this year the company expanded the program to allow all locations to provide meals to veterans and active duty military personnel.
“We’ve probably given away in the vicinity of about 2,500 meals right now,” Mullett said about 5 p.m. Wednesday, from the Gentian Boulevard location. He predicted the other nine locations, which include the Phenix City and Airport Thruway locations, to do about the same.
“When we opened at 11, there was a line,” Mullett said. “We served here probably about 2,500. That’s just the vets and active military, not their families. We’ll probably be on a wait until about 9:30 to 10 (p.m.).”
At dinner time, there was a line outside the door with dozens of people waiting approximately an hour and a half for their turn.
“I think it’s great that they’re doing it. I think more businesses should do it for the veterans,” said Paul Gear, an 11-year active duty combat veteran.
For retired Army Desert Storm veteran Cornell Christian, coming to Applebee’s provided him with more than a free meal. It also gave him a chance to see fellow veterans whom he hadn’t seen in years.
“The food was good and it’s great that someone showed gratitude for us. I spent eight months over there in Iraq,” Christian said. “I saw a man that I hadn’t seen in 20 years. Then I out-ranked him, but he out-ranks me now. I saw another man I hadn’t seen in 16 years.”
Another appreciation day
Although Applebee’s chose to honor veterans on Veterans Day, Golden Corral Steaks Buffet & Bakery has decided to hold its Military Appreciation Day on Monday from 5 to 9 p.m.
“It’s a day you’ll never forget,” said Lynn Brumbeloe, the general manager of the Manchester Expressway location. “Last year, we fed between 2,500 and 3,000. We’ll have six area bands here performing and ROTC.”
Golden Corral has honored veterans for at least five years and Brumbeloe said the gesture is well received.
“We’ll take all the disabled veterans early, about 3:30 or 4 o’clock,” she said. “We’ll stop feeding a little after 9. I have lots of teenagers volunteer to roll silverware or sweep the parking lot. It’s a lot of fun.”
As darkness fell on Applebee’s, Mullett said each store prepared in advance for large crowd.
“With so many soldiers in this area and with so many retirees, we expected it to be like this pretty much all day,” Mullet said. “We had some calls about taking it to go, but we just wouldn’t be able to handle it.”