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Why one couple dines alone at this Louisiana restaurant every day

The restaurant workers have become their family.

GREENWELL SPRINGS, Louisiana -- Black-and-red checkered tablecloths cover empty tables, surrounded by neatly pushed in black-and-red chairs.

It's lunchtime in a Louisiana diner.

Hand sanitizer sits on one table, and servers are wearing blue gloves.

It's their new normal.

It's been two weeks since Gov. John Bel Edwards told restaurants to close their dining rooms. Food joints have been limited to takeout and delivery, as the state grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Wednesday night, 273 people have died of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Louisiana. Another 1,498 people are hospitalized, and 490 of them are on ventilators to help them breathe.

Social distancing seems to be the best hope for limiting the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Melissa Dykes has been doing her part to feed families whose lives have been upended by the outbreak. She owns Me'Pa's Diner in Greenwell Springs, Louisiana.

CBS affiliate WAFB says her crew is now offering family meals, packed with enough grub to feed a family of six at a reasonable price.

On Wednesday, there was a line of cars waiting to indulge in her shrimp etouffee with garlic bread and a side salad. Employees walked the food out to the cars, of course.

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But, there's one couple inside.

Bill and Ruth Jordan eat lunch at Me'Pa's every day. They've been doing so for the past two years, WAFB explained.

On this day, Bill has chosen a cheeseburger and fries. A pool of ketchup completes the platter.

Ruth seems content with her ham-and-cheese omelet and toast. It's the same one she eats every day. And, every day, she and Melissa sing a Gospel tune at the end of the meal.

Routine is important. It helps with Ruth's dementia.

"It's important we do a lot of the same things," Bill told the CBS station. "Otherwise, she gets confused."

That's why when the governor ordered dining rooms to close their doors, Melissa realized she had to find a way not to shut out Bill and Ruth -- even if it meant they were the only people allowed inside.

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Each day, the staff makes sure the couple's table is ready, and no more than eight people are in the diner -- in order to abide by the state's coronavirus guidelines.

"If it was my mother, I would want somebody to help," Melissa told WAFB. "My mother is out in the parking lot right now, and I can't hug her. But I can do something for Miss Ruth. It's what my heart needed to do."

In a post on their Facebook page, the diner said the elderly couple has no family in the area, and the restaurant employees have become their family.

"We could not turn our back on family whenever we are all that they have," Me'Pa's said.

Click here to watch the full story from WAFB.

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