How An Elderly Man’s Favorite Restaurant Repaid Him For 20 Years Of Daily Visits

A smile can change everything. By simply showing compassion to everyone you meet, you can create a family-like community in even the strangest of places — like a fast food restaurant.

After frequenting the chain every day for decades, a kind old man turned his favorite Florida food place into a home of sorts and made its employees his extended family. So when staff heard about the man’s unfortunate accident, they went above and beyond to cheer up their close ‘relative’…

Like most people living alone, 99-year-old Stephen Bellissimo enjoyed his routine. Every day he buttoned up a collared shirt, slid into a blazer, and, when he felt hungry, drove to his favorite restaurant in Oldsmar, Florida.

Fox 13 Tampa Bay

The restaurant, about six miles outside of Tampa, wasn’t far from his home. It didn’t serve juicy steaks, and it wasn’t a diner with one friendly waitress who served never-ending free coffee. But he loved it all the same.

Charlie Neibergall / Northwest Herald

Stephen couldn’t get enough of the classic fried chicken sandwich — with two pickles and a buttered bun! — from his local Chik-fil-A. And there, the man nearing his 100th birthday developed quite a reputation…

Because every day for nearly 20 years, he ordered the same meal and sat in the same booth (for hours), without fail. For the employees, he became a beacon of comfort — the kindly man you just knew would smile at you. They called him “Mr. Steve.”

Stephen “makes everyone here feel loved and welcomed,” Chick-fil-A marketing director, Brittani Craft, said. He told anyone who would listen that he wanted nothing more than to live to be 100. But just before his 100th birthday, he suffered an accident.

Fox 13 Tampa Bay

Either through an act of carelessness or feebleness, Stephen fell down. While the fall didn’t induce any life-threatening damage, the rest of Stephen’s family started worrying — could the aging man live on his own anymore?

After some hard conversations, Stephen did what was best for his health and moved in with his son. He lived far from the Chik-fil-A, and soon, Stephen’s six weekly visits were reduced to just one on Friday afternoons.

normanack / Flickr

On that day, Stephen ordered his chicken sandwich, sat in his same booth, and stayed for hours. On the other days, employees glanced hopefully at Mr. Steve’s empty booth, waiting for a man who wouldn’t be coming.

And while happy he still had the strength to eat his favorite chicken after his fall, Stephen longed for his daily talks with the fast food employees he’d grown so fond of. So when his 100th birthday finally arrived, he knew just where he wanted to go.

On September 21, 2018, Stephen and his son went to that Oldsmar Chik-fil-A. The 100-year-old led the way, excited to be in his favorite place — but the restaurant looked different.

Fox 13 Tampa Bay

Eyes wide, Stephen looked around the restaurant where he’d spent about 20,000 hours of his life over the past two decades. “Oh my God,” he said, incredulous. “What’s going on?”

Fox 13 Tampa Bay

Dozens of helium-filled red balloons bobbed against the ceiling, party hats sat atop the tables, a giant cardboard check clung to the back wall, and a bright banner hung above a window just beside the front counter.

And before Stephen could get a full grasp on his surroundings, Chik-fil-A employee Brittani Craft — cheered on by a few well-dressed guests — wrapped the 100-year-old up in a tight, sincere hug. Only then, did he read the banner.

Fox 13 Tampa Bay

It read, “Happy 100th Birthday, Mr. Steve!” Soon, Stephen was enveloped in love by Chik-fil-A employees and restaurant guests who frequently visited Stephen at his booth. But there was even more to the celebration.

Fox 13 Tampa Bay

With a hand on his shoulder, Brittani delivered the grand finale. “Mr. Steve,” she said, “we want to give you Chick-fil-A for the rest of your life…you’re getting it for free!”

Fox 13 Tampa Bay

“I come here to eat Chik-fil-A for free?” he clarified. When she said yes, his smile could’ve warmed a Scandinavian winter. “My God!” he said. “This is the best gift I could ever receive!” But the elderly man had one concern…

Fox 13 Tampa Bay

“Can I get my same booth?” he asked with delight. Of course, he could, and birthday cake, gifts, and a card with hand-written messages from restaurant employees. Stephen was overwhelmed.

Fox 13 Tampa Bay

But it was Brittani and the Chik-fil-A staff’s pleasures to throw the surprise party. “It’s so heartwarming to watch him affect everyone here,” she said. Stephen, meanwhile, wasn’t going to let his gift go to waste.

Fox 13 Tampa Bay

Still smiling — and perhaps thinking of a chicken sandwich with two pickles on a buttered bun — the 100-year-old man announced, “instead of coming once a week, now I’m coming every day!”


If you do nothing else today, watch the video below to see Stephen’s excitement at his Chik-fil-A birthday celebration. Witnessing the distilled joy on his face is positively infectious!

100th birthday party at Chick-Fil-A

"Mr. Steve" has been a regular at the Chick-Fil-A in Oldsmar, FL for the past 20 years and today he turns 100! So the staff at his favorite restaurant gave him the sweetest surprise! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. STEVE!

Posted by FOX 13 News – Tampa Bay on Friday, September 21, 2018

To Stephen that Chik-fil-A was more than a restaurant — it was home. It goes to show that, when we show love and kindness to the people around us, we can turn just about anywhere into a home!

Share this Chik-fil-A birthday with your friends below!

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