A freak thing happened in my restaurant starting about two months ago. This man came in on my assistant manager Joe’s shift. He ordered food, and Joe, being who he is, provided exceptional customer service, above and beyond what this particular individual expected of his fast-casual experience. The man sits down to eat, but before he leaves, he slips Joe a piece of paper, with his name, title and phone number. He tells Joe something about the company where he is a VP and states that they are looking for good people to train for management positions.
Joe and I are friends, we worked together at the store we were both at previously, and he had recently been transferred to be my assistant manager. He was not looking for another job, but was disappointed with his current pay. So after the customer talks to Joe briefly about his company, Joe is pretty skeptical. I mean really, who does that? Nevertheless, there is no harm in calling, talking to the guy, seeing what this is all about. So he calls, sets up a time to talk to this customer/company VP, and discovers that the guy is legit. He is really a vice president for a high-end equipment support and maintenance company that is currently led by a select group of near-retirees. The customer/VP is looking for energetic, young leaders with great people skills. Joe has a degree in education and a few years experience in day care and restaurant management. No business experience in sight. Nevertheless, they love him, and after several weeks of interviews and meetings, they hire him to do sales and marketing with the intent to train him into a future VP.
This is a true story, and when Joe gave his two weeks notice last month and told me this story, I was disappointed, but so happy for him. Joe is a great guy, something great happened to him, and he deserved it. He got lucky because he happened to make this guy’s burrito. I hope in ten years he will tell his kids this crazy story about how he got started a company he’s then helping run. I have to say though, that I was also uite a bit jealous. I had been the one wanting to leave my job, and had been starting to look around a bit, and then found out Joe was leaving. I wondered why some people got so lucky in life and why it wasn’t me. I felt a bit sorry for myself here and there, wondering why no one ever offered me a job after I rolled their burritos. I’m pretty much over it now, but I talked to Joe the other day and he said that he’s excited to go to work in the morning, and when he leaves, he thinks, “wow, that was a great day.” No late-night phone calls, no wierd hours, no food prep, no cleaning. Sounds amazing.
I have spent my last few years as a restaurant manager, and though there are many things I love about it, I don’t feel like it’s possible to sustain the energy level needed with the amount of stress that it puts on all areas of one’s life. I’m starting to understand why some of the people I see in the restaurant industry seem bitter and burned out and hating their jobs. Maybe they started out really intent on doing something good and meaningful for their employees and customer. I don’t want to be 30 and feeling stuck in my career and totally burned out. And that’s really where I am heading. So U-turn, interviews coming my way, I hope something works out soon. I wanted to tell the Joe story because I think it’s pretty amazing, and speaks to the idea that there still are people taking chances on people for reasons other than their resumes. And for a neat little conclusion….
Friday a late-20s prefessional woman came into the restaurant. It was not busy and I noticed she went straight to pick up a catering menu. I went to see if she had questions and explained our options, showed her the correct store phone number and chatted with her for a minute. She introduced herself, asked for my name, and thanked me for the information. A little while later, there was a phone call for me, and it was Crystal on the phone, explaining that she was the person who had just been in to inquire about catering. I said of course I remembered her and she thanked me again for being so friendly and helpful when she had stopped in. She said I had gone out of my way to help her and the reason she had thought about it was that her company was going through an aggressive expansion and seeking “sharp” people to join them. I actually almost laughed, but instead responded that was was defintely “keeping my options” open and interested in speaking with her about a job. I actually don’t think it’s going to be something I am seriously interested in, but how could I pass up reacting to my own Joe moment?