For many, Thanksgiving is a day-long process of preparing, cooking and serving food for the entire family.
For Hamburger Inn owner Bill Michailidis it is a three-day process that ends with a dinner for hundreds.
Michailidis opened his restaurant up for the third consecutive year Tuesday to serve free Thanksgiving meals to his employees, their families and anyone else that cared to join in.
The Delaware staple closed its doors to paying customers at 1:30 p.m. to make way for employees and families.
“In this industry we are always working seven days a week,” Michailidis said. “We never really have time as a family to sit down and have dinner or go out for dinner as a staff. It’s a day that I give thanks to all the people that work for us.”
By 3 p.m. the general public began streaming in.
“The reaction from the community has been immense,” Michailidis said. “Many people couldn’t believe that they were coming in here to have a free meal. They thought they had to pay something.”
This year, Michailidis was expecting to serve as many as 700 people throughout the day, up from the 450 served in 2009.
“It’s kind of crazy because we have 33 seats,” he said. “So it is a monstrosity of an event. It takes a lot of planning and execution.”
To feed that many people, Michailidis, family and some Hamburger Inn staff began preparations over the weekend to cook 60 turkeys, 10 trays of stuffing, hundreds of pounds of mashed potatoes and other Thanksgiving fare.
Some of the food was donated by suppliers Meijer, Giant Eagle and GFS, but Michailidis pitches in a fair share of cash.
“We really appreciate their assistance,” he said.
At 11 p.m. Monday, the cooking began and continued throughout the evening and into the next morning.
A large oven allowed for 18 turkeys to be cooked at one time, which hastens the process.
“When you have a big oven it makes so much difference,” son Stasi Michailidis said.
And Michailidis and family are hoping that their efforts make a difference for others.
“For many of the people last year it was the only Thanksgiving meal they were going to have,” he said. “It just really touches my heart.”
A tradition that began in the 1980s when he owned a restaurant in downtown Columbus, Michailidis has every intention to keep the event going in Delaware for years to come.
“It truly is a community event, and that is its intent,” he said.