Lifestyle & Human Interest

McDonald's Franchise Owner Gave Away 10,000 Free Meals After Hurricane Laura Destroys Businesses and Homes


After Hurricane Laura tore through Louisiana, those who experienced the most damage were left without power or water, many forced to pick up the pieces of their lives without the simple comfort of a hot meal.

Rikesh Patel owns 25 McDonald’s locations in Louisiana, and his Lake Charles restaurants were hardest hit. In a generous gesture, he decided to help out his own but also the community.

Offering his own workers places to stay if their homes were damaged and time-and-a-half pay, according to CNN, he also called corporate the day after the hurricane hit and asked for a McRig. One made the trek from Kentucky and arrived the day after he requested it.

“Pictures don’t do [the destruction] justice,” he said of the area. “It’s so much worse than what you’re seeing on social media.”

“We know that the rebuilding process will take a lot of time,” Patel added. “But we know that Lake Charles is going to come through this and that we’ll be stronger than ever.”

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And part of that was aided by his offer of free food. Using the McRig and the workers still in the area, he began serving meals composed of a cheeseburger, fries and a bottled water at no cost to the recipients.

“Today we proudly served over 1,500 free meals to our Lake Charles community,” he tweeted Aug. 31. “We’ll be back at it again tomorrow! The greatest brand in the world.”

One recipient, Sky Nielsen, posted a photo of the free meal and the note that came with it on social media, and Patel shared it on Twitter.

“As the people of Lake Charles and the surrounding areas recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Laura, your local McDonald’s Owner/Operator, in partnership with McDonald’s Corporation wish to contribute in a small way by providing lunch to those who are working so hard to rebuild their homes and businesses,” the note read.

“The true character of our great city is on full display as we come together and help each other recover from the effect of this devastating storm.

“McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc believed we must give back to the community we do business in and we wish to honor his legacy at a time when our community needs it the most!”

Nielsen was deeply touched by the free meal.

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“Went to get food and drinks to cool everyone down and McDonald’s on Nelson Rd was giving away free lunch,” Nielsen wrote. “I didn’t think I could be brought to tears from a fast food restaurant. Thank you.”

Over six days, Patel and his crew served more than 10,000 of their free meals.

“It was just really neat to see the whole family aspect,” Patel told CNN, “of how we’ve always said we’re like a family and it just really came to life during such a tragedy.”

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