X

World’s Friendliest Restaurant Serves Breakfast, Lunch and Hugs

While it is common for restaurant owners to connect with their patrons, a restaurateur from Albuquerque is taking customer care to a whole new level. Tim Harris gives out free hugs to every single customer at the end of each meal. The atmosphere at his restaurant ‘Tim’s Place’ is so positive that patrons often call it the ‘world’s friendliest restaurant’.

The establishment has been around since 2010, and Tim has given out over 19,000 hugs in the past five years – he keeps count using a special Hug Counter. “I love giving all the customers a hug because I want them to feel comfortable and connected and being around friends,” said Tim explained.

‘Tim’s Hug’ is actually an item on the menu, described as a “calorie-free”, “guilt-free” treat that guarantees to “improve your lease on life.” Which is true – Tim’s hugs are doubly special because of everything he has achieved in life. The 26-year-old is probably the only Down syndrome sufferer in the U.S. to own a restaurant, but he has several other things to be proud about: he’s an accomplished Special Olympian, an excellent sailor, and an experienced offshore fisherman. And, he was also elected homecoming king and Student of the Year in high school! So when a man like Tim hugs you, it is sure to be a special and unforgettable experience.

Tim's-Place-restaurant

Tim’s father Keith admits that when he first learned about his son’s condition, he wasn’t able to accept it. “Our pediatrician asked me if I knew what Down syndrome was, and the world turned black at that moment,” he told CBS News. “Tim is the second of four boys, and when he was growing up, we saw the challenges that his disability presented socially.”

“We started to ponder when he was young about his future and made the choice that we wanted to create a life for him that was as close to typical as possible,” he added. So Keith and his wife Jeanne decided to raise all their sons with the same expectations, without making any concessions for Tim. It turns out that their strategy worked beautifully – none of Tim’s brothers are actually as successful as he is.

Tim's-Place-restaurant2

When Tim expressed interest in opening a restaurant, Keith – a small business owner himself – provided the initial investment. While Tim hired other people to manage the place and do the cooking, he himself is the face of the establishment – and the genius behind the concept of free hugs. He realised that people want to feel at home at a family restaurant, which is why he included ‘love’ as an item in the menu. Customers can order the free hug from Tim, and even if they don’t, he’ll probably hug them anyway.

“Tim has this unique quality where he is happy literally every day,” Jeanne revealed. It’s  probably this quality of his that makes him so affectionate towards people. And he’s successfully managed to translate that affection into a working business model. His signature friendly service has proved highly successful – customers simply love visiting Tim’s Place.

Tim's-Place-restaurant3

“Ever since I stopped in after reading the ‘Now Open’ sign, I’ve been coming here once a week,” said Michelle Garth-Jones, a regular customer. “I love local restaurants, and this particular one has a story that stays with you.”

Tim’s Place is not only an establishment that serves great Mexican food and free hugs, but is also an example of what great parenting can accomplish. “We’ve had several families with young children with disabilities who have come in or written and said, ‘I never thought this would be possible for my son or daughter,’” said Jeanne. “it’s changing the way they’re thinking as they’re raising their young children.

Tim's-Place-restaurant4

“I tell people with disabilities that they can follow their dreams,” Tim added.

The restaurant is  doing pretty well in terms of profits, and Tim says he has plans to expand as well. Last year, Tim’s Place also struck a deal for a reality show called Everybody Loves Tim.

 

Tim dedicates all his success to the man who gave him his first hug – his father. “He’s my super hero and my inspiration,” Tim said about Keith. “I love my dad so much.”

Photos: Tim’s Place/Facebook

Sources: CBS News, Huffington Post