By Clint Confehr

NASHVILLE, TN — In the recent Grand Opening at Shoney’s Donelson in Nashville.  CEO, David Davoudpour, invited all the children and team members from the Backfield in Motion program, along with the help of Chief Anderson to a blue light special dinner treat.

Shoney’s Chairman/CEO David Davoudpour organized the event with College Football Hall of Famer Boots Donnelly, CEO of Backfield in Motion (BIM), a non-profit tutoring boys, age 10-18, in the three R’s, and running a youth football league.

During a recent 5k fun run fundraiser for police, Davoudpour said, Chief Steve Anderson agreed to have police escort nearly 100 boys from their residence, to Shoney’s Dinner for Hope, Inspiring Nashville’s Youth.

“Often people see police take people to jail,” Davoudpour said. “How nice would it be for them to take them to dinner?”

Donnelly agrees.

“The officers let the kids know they are their friends,” Donnelly said. “They emphasized that our kids could … make a career as police officers … Shoney’s and David Davoudpour went 360 degrees out of their way to welcome, feed and make BIM youth feel important.”

BIM helps improve at-risk boys’ school attendance, behavior, academics, graduation rates, life skills, character and parents’ participation. They’re recommended to BIM by churches, community centers, behavioral organizations, government agencies, teachers, principals and counselors who want them to reach their potential and contribute to society.

At dinner, the boys and their advocates saw how nearly all Shoney’s restaurants will look someday. A modern restaurant appearance succeeds the red and white theme of Shoney’s buildings.

“It’s a rebirth of Shoney’s,” Davoudpour said. “We continue to create memorable experience for our guests … I didn’t want to deviate. I just want to improve it.”

Near I-40, “Our Donelson Pike store is our vision for the future,” Davoudpour said. It’s Shoney’s first upgrade in Tennessee. Others are in Atlanta, Panama City and other markets. Shoney’s near Nissan stadium “will be re-done very soon.” Ceilings are higher. Fewer booths allow more seating. Flooring is scuff-resistant tile to reduce slip and fall liability. And there’s a bar.

“Naturally there are beverages,” Davoudpour said. “We want to provide a dining option for all demographics … There’s a new generation of American diners … that’s what they’re looking for.”

Renovation costs $200,000 to $500,000, “depending on whether it requires a bar,” Davoudpour said. If Shoney’s neighbors don’t want a bar, “We would honor their wishes.” But, “Donelson is the Cadillac of the Cadillacs.”

Based at Elm Hill Pike headquarters, Shoney’s Director, Juan Gipson says adding big screen TVs brought new customers to watch sports.

Donnelly says he’s patronized Shoney’s, and is “more inclined to now that there’re TVs” there.

Still, Davoudpour said, it’s a restaurant, not a tavern. Executive Chef Eric Cleveland grew up by his mother cooking at home.

“Shoney’s has invested heavily to provide a superior product and exceptional service,” Davoudpour said. Its brand name is worth protecting.

Davoudpour is exuberant, optimistic and has “real people offering real food at a real price” and likes customers saying “Wow, this is great American food.”

Donnelly said, “David Davoudpour, has a heart for disadvantaged kids bigger than Shoney’s building.”


Clint Confehr

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...