Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar is among the restaurant operators assisting relief efforts in Joplin, Mo., which was devastated by a recent tornado.
The May 22 tornado, the nation’s deadliest twister in six decades, killed at least 132 people and injured 900 others, while damaging some 8,000 commercial and residential structures in the southeastern Missouri city.
“It’s unbelievable the extent of the damage,” Bob Bonney, chief executive of the Missouri Restaurant Association in St. Louis, told NRN on Friday. “We’re even having a good deal of difficulty getting in touch with our members there.”
The tornado missed an Applebee’s in Joplin by only 200 yards, the Lenexa, Kan.-based chain said on its website.
This week, a spokesman from Applebee’s explained how the chain reached out to its employees in the area and assisted in the city’s relief efforts.
“Our first priority was making sure our team members were OK and to do everything possible to help them,” said Derek Farley, who e-mailed responses from the Applebee’s group in Joplin. “Every team member has been accounted for, but many have lost their homes and/or belongings.”
He said Applebee’s immediately “sent a convoy of assistance — a generator, mobile-hand washing stations, cases of water and other sanitation supplies — to Joplin.” Officials feared Joplin’s water system might have been contaminated by the storm, so residents and businesses were under orders to boil water before consuming it.
Applebee’s also dispatched eight employees from Kansas City, Mo., and four from Springfield, Mo., to provide further assistance. In addition, Applebee’s units in Springfield, which is 68 miles east of Joplin, made 800 boxed lunches and delivered them to Red Cross triage centers in Joplin.
Farley said another priority was reopening the Applebee’s in Joplin, which happened on Wednesday.
“We are offering a limited ‘relief’ menu to help feed the community during this tough time,” Farley said. “For those that are unable to pay, we are happy to accommodate them. Many relief workers and law enforcement officers have been coming in throughout the day and night.
“As a side note, a manager last night told me that our restaurant is serving as a gathering place for the community to share stories and lend support,” Farley added. “Anyone is encouraged to come by even if they just need a place to sit and take a break.”
DineEquity Inc., the Glendale, Calif.-based parent company of Applebee’s and IHOP, also made donations to the American Red Cross, a children’s hospital in Joplin and an Applebee’s fund that provides assistance to employees in times of crisis.