Struggling restaurant saves up enough to serve 500 free meals

Coronavirus

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Cafe Moxo, one of downtown Springfield’s most popular restaurants, shuttered a satellite location back in May to cut down on overhead and expenses in an effort to survive the economic pressures of the pandemic.

Six months later, the owner is still struggling to keep the doors open. And yet, despite the dramatic decline in business and a second ban on indoor dining, the company served up 500 free meals on Sunday afternoon to feed people in need.

“This took me a little while to save up,” owner Mark Forinash said, adding that, “now’s a good time for us to give back to the families that have always been there to support us.”

Sunday’s free meal giveaway included a sandwich, chips and a cookie. In recent months, Forinash and company have partnered with other churches, charities or businesses to provide free meals, but he said this one was entirely funded by his company.

“November is just such a great month to give thanks,” he said. “We’ve seen certainly prior to COVID, but certainly during COVID, it doesn’t matter what month it is, there’s really a lot of people struggling.

“While it’s hard, you still should be able to do something as a business,” he said. “At least in my mind. And if I can buy food, put it together and give it out to the public, I can make more of an impact with food than I can with money.”

The company has expanded its efforts to sell meals for curbside pickup or delivery in an attempt to adapt to the pandemic, and has also seen its staff reduced to a headcount of just six workers.

Forinash says a goal of making enough in sales to fund a food drive is part of what keeps him going.

“We wanted to live and be around long enough to see November so we could give thanks to Springfield,” he said.

The turnout was a big hit. The staff gave away all 500 meals in just about 20 minutes.

“That’s not a positive necessarily,” Forinash said, referring to an increase in hunger and homelessness in the city. “Really shows you the great divide in the haves and the have-nots in Springfield. I wish it would’ve taken eight hours. To see 500 meals go out in 20 minutes is really a slap in the face.”

Will his business survive long enough to see a vaccine reduce the risk of the Coronavirus?

“We are going to open tomorrow,” he said, “but I don’t think any business is safe post-Covid.”

The company plans to partner with O’Shea Builders to fund another free food giveaway on December 1st.

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