March 15, 2013 // Franchising.com // Nothing can take away the pain Casey Crane’s family is feeling. Nothing will bring back the young mother who was killed in a car crash on a rural South Dakota highway. But when Crane’s co-workers at the Taco John’s® restaurant in Pierre heard the devastating news, they knew they had to do something to support the two young boys left behind.
“Casey worked here for 10 years. She was great at her job and well-liked by our customers. We decided to designate one day – from 5:30 a.m. to midnight – and donate half of all our sales to the Casey Crane Memorial Fund,” says Bryon Itterman, President of Pentex Management which owns the Taco John’s restaurant in Pierre. “The local radio stations, newspaper, Chamber of Commerce – a lot of people supported us once we told them what we were going to do.”
What happened next surprised everyone, including Itterman and his store’s crew. Customers filled the restaurant. The line of cars using the drive-thru snaked around the block. Business owners offered to buy lunch or dinner for all their employees. Taco John’s employees came from other towns to help prepare and serve the food – some even donated their wages for the day.
“I was hoping to hit $8,000 in sales and double a typical day’s business. My director of operations thought we could hit 10 thousand,” says Itterman. “We were both wrong.”
Breakfast burritos in the morning. Fish Tacos, Taco John’s® Baja Boneless Wings, Grilled Burritos and Potato Olés® throughout the day. The customers, orders and donations kept coming in until the total reached $14,673 – a national, single-day sales record for the Taco John’s restaurant chain.
“It exceeded all of my expectations. It was humbling and exciting. My crew worked really hard. Customers couldn’t have been nicer. Taco John’s International helped us with posters. People on social media were encouraging their friends to eat at Taco John’s on that day,” says Itterman. “It was devastating news when we found out Casey had been killed. But it feels good, even in a small way, to do something that will help her kids. It makes our whole company feel good.”
Memorials are still coming in. More than $11,500 has been raised so far. The donation bucket will stay on the front counter at the Pierre Taco John’s until March 20th. Itterman will then deliver the money to Casey’s family, a gift from the company and community that stepped up to help when tragedy hit.