Neighbors helping neighbors: Backstreet Restaurant in Riverside starts pay-it-forward project

Rob McMillan Image
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Pay it forward is the theme of Backstreet Restaurant in Riverside
A family-owned restaurant in Riverside has built up a lot of traditions over its half-century of service. But the new owner of Backstreet Restaurant has added another tradition to help customers and neighbors -- paying it forward.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- A family-owned restaurant in Riverside has built up a lot of traditions over its half-century of service. The restaurant was recently sold, and the new owner has added another tradition - paying it forward.

The Backstreet Restaurant is a staple in Riverside, serving sandwiches in a unique setting for more than 50 years. Fast forward a couple of decades and Alan Reinhardt is now the owner of this popular restaurant.

"I came here all the time as a customer as a kid, my parents brought me here," said Reinhardt.

While he knows not to break tradition, Reinhardt added paper cards, hung by string along the front counter. It's an idea he got when he was living in the Bay Area, encouraging neighbors to help neighbors.

"There was a brewery that I always went to, they had a pay-it-forward program," said Reinhardt. "They'd write on clothes pins, one beer for a cop, or whatever it was. And you could pay it forward for a public servant or whatever it was, and I loved the idea."

So when he took over as owner this year, this was one of the changes.

"We did $15 for anybody who needs it; we did $20 for somebody who was having a bad day," said Reinhardt. "And I'm prior law enforcement, so we did $15 or $20 for Riverside PD. And it took about a month and there were 30 of them."

Free food for a highway patrol officer, or a teacher, or anyone in need: Creativity and generosity are front and center with this project.

"Yesterday I had a customer come in here and ask if it's only for police, only for nurses, only for those people. I said no, you can do it for anybody," said Reinhardt. "And her husband used to be a health inspector for the city of Riverside, and I said no they have the hardest times and she bought a drink for a health inspector."

It's a new tradition that Reinhardt hopes will stick, especially during stressful times.

"We tried to put this online to bring a sense of community, a sense of family. This family restaurant has been here forever, and we want to treat our customers like they're family," said Reinhardt. "So we want everybody to be able to come here and eat here and enjoy."