Grumpy’s Restaurant CEO Connects with Community Amid Crisis

Exclusive Insights
Daniel DeLeon

By Daniel DeLeon, Grumpy's Restaurant

A well-loved Jacksonville, Florida staple, Grumpy’s Restaurant is one of many small franchises across the nation that has had to make huge adaptations during the pandemic. The brand, with their flagship unit open and two in development, has always been involved in its home community of Orange Park, Florida, but in a time of crisis, President and CEO Daniel DeLeon knew he had to put a plan in place to connect with his staff, local residents, first responders, and more. During a time when there is a lot of uncertainty, he urges franchisors and franchisees alike to make a difference on a local level.

Stepping Up as a Leader

Grumpy’s was noted locally not only for the delicious food, but the Southern hospitality and experience that guests have while dining inside. When dining rooms in Florida shut down, to-go orders alone were not enough to keep the staff fully employed. Prioritizing both the safety and livelihood of his staff, Daniel immediately gave up his own salary so that he could continue sending his staff members home with paychecks. He believes that all business owners should be doing everything they can to protect their employees.


...Daniel immediately gave up his own salary so that he could continue sending his staff members home with paychecks."


“Our incredible staff is what makes our diner more than just a place to eat. It seemed like common sense to do everything I can to help them. When you own a business, one decision you make can change the lives of so many people,” said Daniel. “Once people heard about what we were doing, the community showed us so much love and I knew I had to do everything I could to continue to help our community and neighbors.”


Helping Neighbors in Need

When the news broke about Daniel giving up his salary, the store touched a lot of people in the community who were struggling to get by. Social media posts about Grumpy’s even went viral in the Jacksonville area. With the flood of positive responses, local residents began to tell Daniel about their struggles during the pandemic.

As a community leader, he knew he had to do more to help his neighbors. He reached out to his food vendors and worked with them to set up a community giveaway event to help people who didn’t have access to fresh produce. They set up a free farmer’s market-style display of thousands of dollars of fruits, vegetables, and more for local residents who were struggling to afford groceries during the pandemic.

The countless pallets of produce were expected to last over the course of a week and Grumpy’s had planned to host the event daily, but the demand was so high that all of the food was given away in just one morning.

“It became really evident that people right in our backyards were hurting,” said Daniel.

Creating Community Initiatives

Wanting to reach even more people in the restaurant’s community, Daniel decided to create the Grumpy’s Community Action Campaign, which enables local patrons to buy a $10 meal as a thank you to healthcare workers, first responders, grocery store workers, and more. Over the past few weeks, Grumpy’s has delivered over 500 free meals to essential workers that have been working hard to put the community first.

Not only does this campaign give well-deserved “thank yous” to frontline workers, but it also has put the Grumpy’s staff hard at work as business is picking up again.


“As a franchisor or franchisee, people are going to remember what you did during a crisis. We have people come in all the time and thank us for how we’ve gotten involved, and it’s only made us stronger,” added Daniel. “When we look at potential franchisees, we look for people who reflect our values and will bring our Grumpy’s culture to their community.”

Since Florida has begun to reopen, Grumpy’s has been able to operate at a limited capacity and the brand has been taking significant measures to keep guests safe. Their mission is to deploy the best-in-class practices for operations, customer service, cleaning and sanitation, and new social distancing measures. All guest entrance handles and high touch areas have been wrapped with Pure Zone Antimicrobial Surface Projection Wrap Film. Every employee goes through the CDC recommended health screening and temperature check prior to each employee shift. They have even extended this to all of their vendors, delivery drivers and maintenance personnel. In addition, all back of house employees are required to wear face coverings at all times along with their usual glove use. They have also added six hand sanitizer stations in their restaurant for both employees and guests. Frequency of their already stringent cleaning and sanitation procedures in every department of the organization have been increased. For example, bathroom cleaning and sanitation has been increased from every hour to every 30 minutes of operational hours. Additionally, they rearranged their dining rooms to accommodate proper social distancing measures, along with closing all in-restaurant waiting areas and created a new outside waiting area.

As people become more comfortable with dining out again, the brand is seeing positive growth looking ahead in both sales and franchise development. Daniel looks forward to continuing to serve not only his Jacksonville community, but new areas throughout the Southeast as the brand grows.


Daniel DeLeon is the President & CEO of Grumpy's Restaurant. For more information about Grumpy's, click here.