Policemen and the restaurants on their beats often share a close relationship, a familiarity fostered through such neighborly gestures as offering a cold drink on a blistering day or waiving the restrooms-for-customers-only rule. Restaurateurs say that personal connection allows them to talk informally with an officer about difficult situations, be it aggressive ticketing of customers’ cars or handling an unruly guest.
After the tragedies of the last week, many restaurants are wondering how they can show appreciation for the local officers who keep employees, guests and the business safe. We asked the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, an organization that promotes the well-being of some 32,000 police enforcement officers working in 11 states, for some recommendations.
1. Express your gratitude
After the shootings of officers in Dallas and in Baton Rouge, La., the law enforcement community “is saddened by the reactions of the communities they serve, even though the communities still seem to appreciate the law enforcement officers themselves,” said Tim Reichert, director of communications and public affairs for the SSPBA. “They tell me they really love to see local businesses do things for police, even if it’s just putting a sign in the window” professing the place’s appreciation of the men and women on the beat.
2. Show you’re willing to help
Restaurants can also show their support by helping customers show theirs. Reichert suggests putting a jar on the counter where patrons can drop some change or slip in a few bucks, with an indication the money is going to help a local law enforcement charity or to buy the stationhouse some doughnuts and coffee. Patrons can also be invited to round up their tab to the nearest dollar and donate the difference from their actual tab to a law enforcement-supported charity, said Reichert. The dollars are less important than the gesture of support, he suggested.
3. Make a surprise free delivery
Reichert knows firsthand that an unexpected treat can buoy the spirits of professionals who feel they have a target on their backs at the moment. This weekend, his church delivered free pizzas to his local police station in the outskirts of the Atlanta area. A surprise delivery of sandwiches, pizza, doughnuts or any treat would go a long way toward showing local law enforcement that they’re appreciated.
4. Invite a cop to lunch
Reichert said he’s never heard of cops feeling they were being bought for the cost of a sandwich or a cup of coffee. So restaurateurs shouldn’t hesitate to provide something on the house if they want to say thank you to a policeman, he advises. If the officer shows any misgivings about taking a token freebie, ask if it’s okay before passing over that sandwich, slice of pie or glass of lemonade.
Right now, “Everyone feels they have a target on their backs,” Reichert says of the cops with whom he’s spoken. “They love to see when there’s support for them.”