It's You and the Gatekeeper and the Battle of Wit.
By Maureen Sharib
This is the second in a series of stories about people who work late or early hours.
The series is intended to showcase the lives of different people in different walks of life and delve into their motivations (or no motivations) for work.
I chose to highlight people who work early morning hours and/or late night hours because I believe there’s something interesting about people who are running the world while most of us are asleep.
"The early bird catcheth the worm." ~ John Ray, A Collection of English proverbs 1670, 1678
Belt Waffle House, Cincinnati, OH
5896 Financial Dr.
Norcross, GA 30071,
Don't look for pancakes at this house, because it doesn't serve 'em. Waffle House is the #2 family-style restaurant chain (behind Denny's) with more than 1,500 diners in about two dozen states, mostly in the South. The eateries are popular for eggs, grits, and waffles, as well as their famous "scattered, smothered, and covered" hash browns. In addition to day starters, the menu features T-bone steaks, cheeseburgers, and sandwiches for lunch and dinner. Invoking the 1950s-style diner, Waffle House units are typically free-standing and open 24 hours a day. About half the locations are franchised. Joe Rogers Sr., father of CEO Joe Rogers Jr., started the family-owned business with partner Tom Forkner in 1955.
*The US casual restaurants industry includes more than 200,000 eating establishments that generate about $190 billion in revenue. Major companies include Brinker International, Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster and Olive Garden), DineEquity (Applebees and IHOP), and OSI Restaurant Partners (Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba's). The industry is highly fragmented: the 50 largest companies account for about 20 percent of the market.
*Information provided by Hoovers, a D&B company
I noticed Belt as he mindfully tended the breakfast I’d ordered on a very early Sunday morning at a Waffle House north of Cincinnati off I-71.
He listened quietly as the waitress took my order and started the three pieces of bacon on the grill and placed the fry pans on the burners before she finished scribbling.
I’d asked that the home fries be a “little burned” and that onions be added to them.
I wanted the eggs over easy and foolishly asked for pancakes.
“We don’t serve pancakes here,” the friendly waitress advised. “Only waffles,” as she pointed to the menu.
“Waffles will be fine,” I nodded.
I’m sure he was amused at my faux-pas and suspect he hears it often.
In a couple minutes the perfectly cooked food was placed in front of me – hot and delicious.
I noticed Belt glance at me.
I took the opportunity to tell him the home fries were perfect and everything was delicious.
He smiled and said, “Thank you.” I think he really appreciated the compliment.
I watched him make himself a bacon and tomato sandwich in the lull that followed and sit down and quickly eat it along with a Coke.
It was 6:40 a.m.
Belt’s first job at sixteen was with Waffle House in 1999 and except for a short stint starting in 2010 he’s still with them today. He hopes to enter into corporate management and in two and a half years become eligible for Waffle House’s retirement plan that includes stock options.
His pay includes health benefits, which are important to him because he is an unmarried father to three young children - ages 3, 6 and 8. Working the 9p.m to 7a.m. shift allows him to be home for his children the three days a week he has them. He sleeps when his kids are in school.
Back in 1999 his father dropped him off at work that first day in Georgetown, KY and told him, “This isn’t going to be easy and it’s okay if it doesn’t work out.”
Belt responded to that subtle challenge with eleven straight years of work among 13 of the area franchise’s 27 restaurants strung from Georgetown, KY to Washington Courthouse in Southwest Ohio. He’s transitioned through three owners in that timeframe – two franchise owners to the present corporate ownership.
He prefers corporate ownership. Belt politely replied, “There are less personality issues in corporate” to my question, “Why?” and smiled.
In fact, he left Waffle House in 2010 because of personality issues and has recently returned after working a couple different restaurant jobs and at a warehouse. He didn’t care for the warehouse work because he found it monotonous.
Belt enjoys his work as a Master Grill Operator because he’s met with a variety of challenges daily. He also welcomes the changing array of faces among the customers sitting at the counter stools and several booths that line the tall windowed walls of the establishment where he works today.
You become a Master GrilI Operator with Waffle House when you can cook a certain amount of food in an hour.
Did you know Waffle House is the #1 purveyor of T-Bone steaks in the world? Nonetheless, the T-Bone is being retired in September of this year to be replaced by the rib eye.
Belt agrees with that decision. He thinks the rib eye is a better tasting piece of meat and delivers a better value than the 3 oz. bone in the T-Bone.
Belt works both day shifts and night shifts. He prefers the day shift but willingly works the night shift. He works four days out of seven – ten hour days. He likes having three days off and he also likes the overtime when it presents itself as it did while I interviewed him when the 7a.m. grill operator was late because his “car broke down.”
Meeting Belt was a delight and a privilege. I wish him luck in his continued career advancements and congratulate him on his devotion to his three wonderful children.
If you’d like to connect with Belt email him at beltbrashear at yahoo.com
If you'd like to connect with me to find help for your establishments who are content working where they are but might be interested in your opportunity email me at maureen at techtrak.com
513 899 9628
Fun Facts about Waffle House:
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