- Chick-Fil-A patrons in Tallahassee were treated to an unscripted, unscheduled visit by Governor Ron DeSantis
- After a busy day of bill signings, policy meetings and budget briefings, DeSantis took his kids to the fast food restaurant for dinner
- Customers were fascinated by “regular dad” DeSantis just coming in to eat and hang out with his kids, with no staffers or media in tow
- DeSantis earned a standing ovation from patrons after he made small talk, posed for photos and ate chicken and fries with his kids
An earpiece-wearing bodyguard was the first sign that an unusual customer was about to walk into Chick-Fil-A on Bannerman Road Thursday night. A handful of unsuspecting families were already inside munching their chicken sandwiches and waffle fries when Governor Ron DeSantis and two of his three children walked in.
Earlier Thursday, DeSantis had been in Fort Lauderdale for a bill signing ceremony, then later returned to Tallahassee where he held four scheduled budget and policy meetings, in addition to whatever other matters were brought to his attention as the chief executive for the third largest state in the nation.
And after a long day like that, he’d apparently worked up an appetite.
That’s what stood out most about this particular stop to the pleasantly-surprised patrons at Chick-Fil-A Thursday night – that DeSantis’s visit wasn’t a scheduled photo-op or a carefully-planned event – he had the appearance of a busy, tired father just taking his kids out for a quick bite.
According to several witnesses who were there, DeSantis walked in with his two older kids and escorted them to the indoor playground, politely pretending not to notice the jaws of at least two dozen diners drop in unison, elbowing each other while whispering, “That’s Ron DeSantis.”
With the kids running wild in the play area and a member of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement keeping a sharp eye on them, Florida’s governor walked alone to the counter and placed his order with the stunned teenager working the register. The food wasn’t ready immediately, so he trudged back and plopped into a chair at a table in the corner of the restaurant where he could keep an eye on the playground. Making eye contact and smiling with a number of customers, people began saying “hello,” and before long, he was making small talk with some, while others thanked him for one policy initiative or another.
“He looked just like any other regular dad trying to feed his kids,” said Tommy Hendricks, one of the customers who chatted with the governor. “He was very down to earth.”
DeSantis mentioned that his kids liked the food here, but he was trying to get them to eat more things. A teenaged customer mentioned that he’d gotten to take a tour of the governor’s office while DeSantis was away a few weeks earlier. The two chatted briefly about his Tampa Bay Buccaneers memorabilia. Then, after about ten minutes, a Chick-Fil-A employee brought his order to the table, which included a couple of kids meals.
“I was actually surprised he didn’t get his food to go,” said Hendricks. “He got up, and just like every other parent, had to get his kids to quit playing and come to the dinner table.”
Once his kids were seated and munching away, everyone gave the governor some space, allowing him to eat with his family in peace.
When he got up to leave, DeSantis obliged several requests for photos, and when he finally headed for the exit, “the entire restaurant stood up and applauded,” Hendricks said.