McDonald's Walk-up window

File. A truck driver orders from a walk-up window at McDonald's in North Baltimore near I-75. 

Restaurant owners are extending a hand to support those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Larry Ball, owner of the two McDonald’s in Bowling Green, as well as locations in Findlay and North Baltimore, is participating in a free coffee offer for first responders, health care professionals and government officials. He has added an additional offer, free fries and drink with the purchase of a premium sandwich.

“Our staff and employees felt strongly about supporting those who are on the front lines in our communities, taking care of everyone else first. It’s a small token of appreciation to let them know we care and we’re grateful for what they do for our communities,” Ball said.

Ed Nagle, who owns a trucking company in Lake Township, said that the McDonald’s meals are appreciated.

“It’s been a challenge. Fast food has become an important solution,” said Ed Nagle, president of the Nagle Companies in Lake Township.

Many of the truckers keep food in their trucks, but with many convenience stores shut down and parking restrictions for the large vehicles at grocery stores, it has become very difficult for the truckers to go shopping while on the road.

Nagle Companies has a fleet of 50 trucks with 85 employees that service Ohio, Michigan and several states out to the east coast.

“Sadly, a big part of our service area is in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. With the coronavirus, our guys have to be so incredibly careful,” Nagle said.

Most fast food drive-thru lanes have a canopy too low for the big trucks, so they can’t go to the drive up windows.

“McDonald’s came up with a solution,” Nagle said.

To accommodate social distancing, the truckers use a new smartphone app to order and a McDonald’s employee brings the food out to the trucks.

“Truck drivers are critically important to our standard of living. They are putting themselves at risk every day. They are putting their families at risk,” Nagle said. “They are taking precautions, with sanitation like hand washing, regular cleaning, social distancing, gloves, etc. Without these men and women on the road we have no supplies, food or sanitation products. What’s incumbent on us, once this is passed, is that we continue to value truck drivers and the positive impact they have on our lives.”

Tropical Smoothie Café is donating 100,000 smoothies, or 100 per franchise, to hospital workers and first responders.

“I’m crying for all these people. These people are really putting their lives on the line. It’s really emotional, foregoing their families. It’s something most of us couldn’t do,” said Julie Munson, Tropical Smoothie Café co-owner in Bowling Green and Rossford.”

Munson’s cafes have delivered more than 300 smoothies to Wood County Hospital, Falcon Health Center, Mercy Health Care in Perrysburg, nursing home facilities and police departments.

Restaurants have been shut down for dining and only open for carryout or delivery.

Starbucks has also announced a free coffee offer for front line responders through May 3. In addition, the Starbucks Foundation will be donating $500,000 to support front-line responders.

“We are giving free tall, hot or cold, coffee to first responders until May 3,” said barista Sonia Cordero, of the Bowling Green Kroger location.

An Ohio Restaurant Association poll of 300 members conducted last week showed that 47% of respondents had closed locations indefinitely.

“51% of the dollars that go toward meals in the U.S. are spent in restaurants. Grocery stores are set up to factor that in. So their supply chains are stressed,” Homa Moheimani, media manager with the Ohio Restaurant Association, said.

Prior to the pandemic in Ohio had more than 22,000 eating and drinking establishments, 585,000 employees. It was a $24.2 billion industry.