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Why one restaurant gives 15-percent prayer discount

Max SchindlerThe Christian Science Monitor

A moment of quiet gratitude before a meal, can produce another moment of thanks when the bill arrives.

That's what patrons of Mary's Gourmet Diner have discovered.

Jordan Smith recently paused to say grace before a meal at the Winston-Salem, N.C. restaurant. When the bill came later, she spotted a strange number in the subtotal.

"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 told Fox News.

Mary's Gourmet Diner has an official policy of giving diners a special savings if they "pray publicly" before chowing down. The restaurant has reportedly offered patrons the holy discount for four years.

Last week, Christian music radio station Z88.3, Orlando, Fla. uploaded a photo of the discounted receipt to Facebook, causing the news to go viral and generate controversy.

Nearly 10,000 people liked the post with believers and atheists offering either support or criticism of the practice.

"Did she pray for a discount," quipped one commentator.

"Love when I see people pray in restaurants! Reminds me I'm not alone," said another, posting a picture of her granddaughter.

Some dismissed the practice as a publicity stunt. Others said this gives an unfair discount to people who are openly religious but not to atheists.

Restaurant manager Mary Haglund clarified the policy to Fox News. "It’s about the whole idea of gratitude," she said. "It's not a religious thing, it's a spiritual thing." If someone is seen "having a moment," Ms. Haglun said, the customer gets a randomly-offered discount.

So how many Americans actually say grace before meals?

As with many issues, the nation is split down the middle, according to the Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project:

It turns out that that simple question, how frequently you say grace, divides Americans almost exactly in half. So 44 percent say they say grace daily or more often; 46 percent say well, occasionally or never; and then a small percentage, 10 percent, say they will give a blessing to God before they eat maybe once or twice a week.

Many establishments are known to give savings to senior citizens and veterans but some also offer some unusual discounts.

For example, parents with "well behaved kids" got a break on their dinner bill from an Italian restaurant in Washington state, reported The Christian Science Monitor.

In the South, a number of steakhouses deduct from the bill if a customer finishes the entree, according to the restaurant trivia site, Restoran.

And at one Connecticut restaurant, customers receive free books after eating, with more than 100,000 given away since opening.