Mendez Fuel Gives Out 6,500 Free Meals

The convenience store prepared the food fresh each day for neighbors in need of a hot meal. 

June 12, 2020

By Sarah Hamaker

MIAMI—Michael Mendez has long been serving his community with good food, fuel and convenience store items at Mendez Fuel. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, he wanted to do something more.

“We stayed operational all during the pandemic while restaurants had to close,” he told NACS Daily. “Because so many foodservice places were shut down, the cost of food had come down considerably. That made it easy for us to provide free meals to those in our community [in] a very cost-effective way.”

His employees loved the idea. They developed the menus and cooked the food for between 150 and 170 meals daily. Running April 8 through May 26, every day except Sunday, anyone could come in for a free meal. “We developed new, loyal customers through this who hadn’t come into our store before,” Mendez said. Soon regular customers and vendors were helping to sponsor the meals, with donations of paper products, chips or popcorn. The store ended up giving away 6,500 free meals.

Community members shared their gratitude with Mendez Fuel, such as this message: “Dear Mr. Mendez, I want to thank you for being so nice to people like me by donating lunch during the COVID-19 pandemic, as I was having a hard time making ends meet with my rent and food expenses.”

While things are slowly returning to normal, Mendez Fuel continues to take extra precautions with daily cleaning and a once-a-week store disinfection, as well as asking employees and customers to wear masks and continue social distancing. For Mendez, the pandemic has accelerated some of the business ideas he’s had. For example, he’s exploring a full-service model for pumping gas and expanding the store’s online delivery options, in addition to working on an app for the business. “Instead of on our five-year horizon, all of these things have been fast-forwarded because of COVID-19,” he said.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and NACS Daily and NACS Magazine contributor based in Fairfax, Virginia. Visit her online at sarahhamakerfiction.com.

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