SPRING HILL — A nonperishable food item or a bag of pet food can get you pancakes, omelettes, cheeseburgers, chicken or other meals today at the Press Box Restaurant on Mariner Boulevard near Bali Lane.
Donna Marklinsky, owner of the 16-table family diner, said she hopes to feed about 1,500 customers between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Donated food will go to the Nativity Lutheran Church Food Pantry and pet food will go to the Humane Society of the Nature Coast.
To prepare for the rush, Marklinsky squeezed about $2,000 of extra sausage, bacon, ham and pancake batter into two coolers in the restaurant's 300-square-foot kitchen.
"I thought I had so much, but now I'm worried it's not going to be enough," she said. "Of course, if I run out, there's always the supermarket."
Every member of the small staff — which includes two cooks, two servers and one dishwasher — is scheduled to work. Marklinsky said family members and friends will also be on hand to help.
The restaurant typically has an extensive menu, but for the event, Marklinsky will narrow the options. There are nine choices for breakfast, which will be served until noon; seven lunch items; and six dinners.
The restaurant, which Marklinsky has owned for more than six years, is usually busiest around 9:30 a.m. with a breakfast rush, she said, while dinner tends to be slower. Crowds are expected all day, however.
Diners will not be hurried through their meals; however, the small dining space could become crowded with customers taking advantage of the offer. Marklinsky said people can wait in line or, if they want, they can wait in their cars after giving their names to the staff.
The purpose of the giveaway is twofold, Marklinsky said. She wants to reinvigorate donations and entice new customers.
"We're not doing great, but we're doing okay," she said as she knocked on the wood table top. "But it's really terrible out there for a lot of people. We just want to help."
When Marklinsky set out food collection boxes in the back corner of the restaurant two years ago, the boxes overflowed so much that customers couldn't get into the bathroom a few steps away, she said. Lately, the boxes stay nearly empty except for the items she puts in, a trend she hopes to help reverse.
"It's just a sad situation," she said. "But I hope this will help. It's a new year and a new beginning."
Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432.