East Bay restaurant owned by Marshawn Lynch provides free food, toys

EMERYVILLE, Calif. (KRON) — The season of giving runs year-round for one East Bay restaurant. It happens to be owned by former NFL running back and Oakland’s own — Marshawn Lynch.

His aunt runs the place. Rob Ben’s Restaurant & Lounge gives back to the community through food and soul.

Hours before opening for business, employees are hard at work in the kitchen.

Sisters Kecia Johnson and Shawny Capla put their souls into what they will eventually serve throughout the day at Rob Ben’s Restaurant & Lounge in Emeryville.

“We treat everyone that comes in here like they’re walking in my front door,” Johnson said. “You know, this is Sunday dinner at Rob Ben’s all the time.”

The soul food establishment off San Pablo Avenue along the Oakland border is named after Lynch’s childhood friend who was gunned down in Oakland a year before lynch bought the business in 2018.

“He’s huge in the community. He has a lot of support. They definitely come and celebrate him,” Johnson said of Lynch.

Lynch is Johnson and Capla’s nephew. He gifted the place to his aunts.

Johnson is the general manager and head chef. Capla manages the front of the house and the bar.

Jerseys of family members hang on the walls. The spirit of the business’ mission is reflected in how it operates.

The sisters routinely hand out free meals at the end of shifts, sharing leftovers with people on the street struggling for food.

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Leading up to Christmas, they are running a toy drive — offering a discount on meals in exchange for an unwrapped toy that will go to underserved families.

"We love to give, you know, and we love to be a part of being able to give back to people who are in need," Johnson.

Turning a profit is essential for any business. Rob Ben's Restaurant & Lounge is no different, and what sets them apart is that the community still comes first.