Ram Mehta, co-owner of Plano’s La Meglio (formerly In-Fretta) Pizza and co-founder of nonprofit Everyone Eatz, has always made giving back part of his business model. He has prioritized helping those struggling financially over the personal stressors of running a restaurant.
Ram practices Sikhism, and had a mother who instilled in him a heart for generosity. He says those two facets influence much of who he is, and why he does much for our neighbors.
Ram, where did you grow up?
I was born in New Delhi, India, but grew up in Queens. I came to the U.S. when I was 13 and stayed with family friends. My parents stayed in India. They had a good business, but I wanted to live in America.
Unfortunately, my uncle [in the U.S.] started mistreating me. I was working at his warehouse seven days a week without any money. One day he got drunk and told me to leave. I was homeless for almost a month, sleeping in the New York subway with $60 in my pocket.
How did you end up here, operating a restaurant?
I started working at a gas station [in New York]. I grew to a point where I was able to work in IT, moved to Dallas and worked for Copart in IT. I wanted to buy a gas station because of my experience. But this guy showed me In-Fretta. We ended up buying it, but one week in we realized that everything the seller had told us was a lie.
We found a chef who specialized in New York pizza, and from there, we rebuilt it. We threw the microwaves in the garbage. We still make everything from scratch.
How did your give-back model begin?
My mother was a very giving woman. She asked, “What happens if someone can’t afford the food? If you’re my son, you’ll put a sign out there that says if you can’t afford the food, you’ll get it for free.” I put that sign out there. That’s what we do. I make sure each customer is treated with respect. My personal phone number is on the sign to ensure no one will be refused. My staff is trained to not judge, and to treat them the same as a paying customer.
How has running La Meglio been this last year?
When COVID hit, people started struggling. I had someone who came to me and said there are kids who depend on school lunches. I started packing small pizzas. And once a week I’d put a board outside: “Free meals for anyone.” We’d make like 1,000 or 500 meals and I’d put on Facebook, and they’d all be gone.
That’s how Everyone Eatz was born. We say, “We’re going to do 10,000 meals.” Expenses are just whatever the food costs. Then we started doing toys, PPE kits, free COVID testing. My friends, my cooks, my employees – there are a lot of people involved. My employees don’t charge for the extra hours. They want to help people in need.
What does an Everyone Eatz event look like?
Genevieve Collins helps me organize it. She’s now chair of the board. Volunteers just show up. We recently surpassed 498,000 meals given. We’ve given away two cars, thousands of toys. Over Christmas, we gave a car to a lady who used to be homeless, and somebody gave her a place to live.
There are a lot of people involved. The need is great. Food is important. I have enough in savings, and God is great. I will continue doing this as long as I can. I’m just trying to impress my mom.La Meglio > Everyone Eatz >
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story was printed when Everyone Eatz’ meal count was at 425,000.