Restaurant’s ‘Prayer Discount’ Sparks Mix Of Praise, Anger

By Scott Neuman

When Jordan Smith got her tab after breakfast at Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, N.C., she was pleasantly surprised to find a 15 percent discount — for “praying in public.”

Smith, on a business trip, tells HLN that she and her colleagues “prayed over our meal and the waitress came over at the end of the meal and said, ‘Just so you know, we gave you a 15 percent discount for praying.’ “

Smith then snapped a photo of her receipt, complete with a line item for “15% Praying in Public ($6.07)” and posted it to her Facebook page. Not surprisingly, it’s gone viral.

Some people wondered if it was just another social media hoax, but Shama Blalock, a co-owner of the diner, confirmed to NPR that “It’s for real; it does exist.”

Blalock says it’s something that she was moved to implement about 3 1/2 years ago. “We’re very thankful for the attention we’ve received, but that’s not what we were aiming at,” she says.

Blalock says the discount is given to customers at the discretion of the wait staff.


  1. That’s very interesting. An Australian couple of my acquaintance recently joined an American couple after spending the day travelling through a Mediterranean country. After the meal’s arrival, US couple very ostentatiously joined hands and loudly said grace. My friends were astounded!

    I would have been tempted to mention the fact that Jesus didn’t like loud praying. Well, I would have been thinking that even if I said nothing.

    Now I realise just what was happening in that situation. They were hoping for a discount!

  2. Remove the letter “r” from the word “pray”, and and i’d be down with it.

    That being said… Where I hail from (B.C. Canada) its customary to leave a 15% tip. Needless to say, if i ever dined at this joint, regardless of the quality of service, under NO circumstances would i leave a tip…. Recon it’d sort ITSELF out that way.

  3. Another possible response may go a little like this:

    server: “We hope you and your lovely family enjoyed your stay this evening. We couldn’t but notice that you gave a prayer before your meal. We feel obliged to give you a 15% discount on your bill. We pray you all have a wunderfull, jeebus filled day”

    me: “no, no… you got us all wrong!!…
    We were praying to THIS guy!!”

    (holds up picture):

    “And BEHOLD!!! …It worked!!! …We even got a 15% discount on our meal!!!
    …Where’s your god NOW?!?!?”

  4. Or, (depending on your mood) that could also read:

    “And BEHOLD!!! …It worked!!! …We even got a 100% discount on our tip!!!”

  5. You beat me to it with the prayer to satan discount eligibility test. I also wonder if the 15% discount would be forthcoming if someone unrolled a prayer mat before the meal, aimed it carefully at mecca and proceeded to headbutt the floor in the prescribed fashion.

  6. This story is a few days old, and as such, the article is missing an important chunk. The owner (or rep) for the diner posted a ‘cover-your-ass’ statement on face book (lol).

    Christian prayers are generally easy to spot – bowed head, folded hands, hand holding. Now tell me, how is a busy waiter going to notice someone “aligning their chakras”, lol.

  7. What would happen if at the end of the meal, a Muslim pulled out his prayer mat, prostrated and started making loud incantations of “Allah U Akhbar”? Add the infamous “anywhere with my gun” law in Jesus Land™ to the mix and one could be contemplating a rather ugly picture for dessert.

    Or maybe the shooter will get a 30% discount?….

  8. Religion has been called “the opiate of the masses.” But I believe that drugs should be legalized; that what a person puts in his own body should not be regulated by government. So, if a person wants to put drugs in his mouth or in his mind, it’s none of our business.
    If you don’t like what this establishment is doing, don’t patronize it. But, on the other hand, don’t take away the owner’s freedom to do what he wants with his own property.
    It’s Congress which shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion. Individuals have the right to be as weird as they desire.
    And, maybe, this discount has increased the business for this owner. Should there be a law to take that away from him?

  9. How do they define praying? Must one bow one’s head? Close one’s eyes? One COULD say a prayer silently to oneself by simply staring straight ahead eyes open for 3 seconds. Then claim you did that and then get into an argument with the staff over whether you did or not? Insane is the only way to describe this.

  10. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Evidently the reward is 15%.

  11. I am an Evangelical Christian and I think discounts for prayer is a bad, bad thing! It cheapens prayer to be remunerated for it. When I was on the school board of a small Christian school I was very much opposed to giving grades for behavior in chapel. My feeling was that personal worship was too important for a mere grade.

    By the way, for a bunch of secularists you folks are quite civil toward Christianity; I’m honestly a bit surprised. Kudos.

  12. I’ve never understood the way Xians ignore Jesus’s instructions on praying. So much of what Jesus supposedly said is vague or downright unintelligible, but on this he is very clear. Don’t pray in public. But everywhere you go, they’re out there praying so everyone can see them including on the football field in front of millions of viewers. The hypocrisy is mind boggling. That was one of the first things that got me questioning the church when i was about 12 years old.

  13. might not be any good

    Oops, I thought you meant the prayer! From ‘The Onion’ , only a small percentage of prayers get to god (deflected off satellite dishes, etc).

    return to sender, address unknown

  14. Thank you Paul. The very simple message that flows from this, in many, many ways is “Don’t believe all you hear.”

    Oh, and by the way, welcome.

  15. By the way, for a bunch of secularists you folks are quite civil toward Christianity; I’m honestly a bit surprised. Kudos.

    Thanks Paul, it sounds like you are a secularist too, thanks for not bashing the christians and thanks for not murdering some of the good words of Jesus.

    There should be a new term for christians who use Jesus to further their own selfish needs and in contradiction to the bible. Given the lack of biblical knowledge it might be easier to call them christians and find a new name for people that actually get Jesus. Clearly not this restaurateur!

  16. In context, this “opiate” was a pain killer, not a recreational substance. It kept users from understanding their true situation.

  17. Paul, I for one never indulge in argumentum ad hominem, especially when it comes to religious faith.

    To personalize the matter is fruitless, because each individual has their own take on their particular religion, so I concentrate on challenging and criticising the dogmas and doctrines of their religion not them personally.

    I say religion singular, because it seems to me that all religions have so much in common that belonging to one particular one or another is splitting hairs.

    What puzzles me though, and my wife would probably say that almost everything seems to, is why, since they are so alike, there’s so much slaughter carried out in their name.

    For what it’s worth, I think religious beliefs fall into two broad categories: the obvious, and the ridiculous.

    But as I say, it’s nothing personal.

  18. That was my first thought as well, but I did start to wonder … at what point does “preferential treatment for religious activity” start to become “discrimination based on religion”? Food for thought

  19. “But, on the other hand, don’t take away the owner’s freedom to do what he wants with his own property.”

    But there have to be limits on that as he is offering a public service as a restaurant.
    How would it be if he offered 15% discount to white people and no-one else?
    That would not be freedom to run his business anyway he wants, that would be racial discrimination and illegal.
    So, is this a case of discrimination, against non-christians?
    Probably not. But he’s sailing close to the wind I feel.

  20. The trouble with praying, as I understand it, is that the person praying is asking God to change His eternal Plan, which being omniscient, He worked out at the same time as He created the universe and us ! As George Carlin remarked (from memory):

    What’s the point of an eternal Plan, if some schmuck can come along with a $2 prayer book and ask you to change it ?”

    Or does God make it up as it goes along, – just like his supporters ?

  21. discrimination against non-Christians?

    Restaurant’s statement for clarification (sort of – a “stop and smell the roses” by any other name still gets one a discount? ).

  22. While I’m hesitant to give these froot loops money, I’d totally love to go into that place with a prayer mat and some chicken bones and conduct some whacked out ritual before my meal. Maybe include some speaking in tongues and a pentagram of salt on the table. Oh, and raise a ruckus if they don’t give me my 15% discount.

  23. You wouldn’t think God would like it.People praying to him so they get a discount on their meal.Especially since he has millions,sometimes billions of others praying to him every day for genuine reasons.

  24. I’m an atheist and agree with your comment.What if people are going in the restaurant faking the prayer so they get a 15% discount.

  25. I work in a kitchen. Your comment made me wonder if people ever pray before a meal I prepared. If they do happen to pray, I wonder how they’d feel knowing a “Godless Heathen” made their food?

  26. “What’s the use of being God if every run-down schmuck with a two-dollar prayer book can come along and fuck up your plan?”

    Always good for another look HERE at 6:06.


  27. Yes, it’s like your airline pilot praying before taxiing out to the runway, not very confidence inspiring. In the case of people praying before they eat a meal you made they may be thinking god guided your hand.

  28. There are any number of reasons why Christian’s get under everyone else’s skin. Nevertheless it’s a free country and they have the right to pray in restaurants if they choose (and certainly if the owner and staff of those restaurants reward it). I personally don’t like it but it is their right.

  29. It’s the Evangelical Christians that pray in public. They believe it’s a way to stand up for their faith and so public prayer is not only encouraged but also becomes a tool for evangelizing. It’s standard practice for Evangelicals (well, the really sold out ones anyway).

  30. What if people are going in the restaurant faking the prayer so they get a 15% discount.

    Just pray that you’re not seated near them because the lighting is coming down, and god is more accurate that the Israeli artillery.

  31. I was an Evangelical Christian for twenty years and it’s considered akin to a sin not to pray over the meals, and the really sincere consider public prayer as a way to proclaim their faith. But they don’t just pray in restaurants as it’s standard procedure for any meal. It is legalism, which most Evangelicals would deny but if they neglected to do it, would quickly hear from their peers. The insanity is that when you’re in the midst of it, it all looks perfectly normal.

  32. Christians really don’t know that the Bible actually calls them harlots and adulterers, as in people that have turned away from God to the practice of silly rituals.

  33. The story goes like that:
    A little girl gets invited to a friend for a meal with her parents
    She ask her friend why we don’t pray at your place ?
    And her friend replay,
    They is no need, Mum is a good cook.

  34. How so? People prepared the meal and the ingredients came from Nature. If you want to pray, pray to Nature, though Nature couldn’t care less about human prayers.

  35. I agree with that it’s their business as long as they don’t do any harm to anything, which of course includes nature. I absolutely do not agree with the atheists being the ones to show more tolerance, as they are usually the ones tolerating everyone and everything as long as it doesn’t bother them, while they themselves and their opinions are rarely tolerated in turn.

  36. If you prayed LOUDLY that the kitchen/wait staff washed their hands and that there were no rats or roaches in the restaurant, would you get the 15% discount?? Ya think??

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