Hands-on manager, Richard Bailey has been darting around the Cedartown Waffle House for 15 years building the restaurant into one of the company’s busiest locations.
Sales on Christmas day 2003 put the local restaurant in fifth place out of its 1500 chain locations. “For an ‘in-town’ Waffle House, that was really good,” Bailey said. In-town versus near an interstate, he explained. Christmas 2004 missed the mark by only $773, but Bailey said that was due to the Rockmart Waffle House opening.
In line with the Atlanta based company’s mission, Cedartown’s Waffle House staff follow the lead of Bailey making every customer feel welcome and at home.
Even though it’s part of staff training - to greet each customer as they walk in and make eye contact - Bailey would probably do it anyway.
Bailey said that his real satisfaction comes from “the thrill of making my customers happy.”
“Everyone that comes in is treated the same,” Bailey proudly said. And just about everyone in town does come by for a cup of coffee and a meal prepared fresh, just the way they want it.
Bailey’s southern hospitality even involves giving one customer, that’s 104 years old, a birthday party every year complete with a cake and the works.
Bailey’s high energy level is perfect for the demands of the 24 hours a day, seven days a week business.
He puts in anywhere from 60 to 75 hours per week and his wife accuses him of being “married to the Waffle House,” he said.
But he loves it. He is the job. Being a manager is like owning the business, Bailey said. “You’re either dedicated or you’re not,” he continued and said that he runs the place as if it were his own. “I can’t let it go,” he said.
Bailey is at work by 5:30 a.m. and goes home anywhere from 3 to 6 p.m., sleeps awhile, calls back in at 10 p.m. and then goes to bed to soon get up and do it all over again.
Patrons to the restaurant sing his praises. One in particular, Tommy Dingler, says Bailey is on the job all the time and comes in on his days off.
“He’s the best manager they’ve ever had,” according to Dingler who is 67 and eats breakfast and lunch there everyday. “He [Bailey] keeps the place clean. It’s the cleanest I’ve ever been in,” Dingler said.
The health scores are proof of this claim. (scores all restaurants must display in public view). Bailey’s current score of 99 has “15 scores of 100 behind it” Bailey said. This means the place meets all the standard criteria for cleanliness, food storage and food handling among other things.
Bailey has tried other restaurant chains, but said he’d rather be with Waffle House than any other.
He began as a cook or grill operator back in the 1970s and quickly moved up the ladder to management, including training other management personnel.
Sometimes he still cooks, “when necessary,” he said.
And how does he remember all those orders?
For the scarce few that may not be aware, no tickets are given to the cooks for orders.
The waitress or salespersons stand on a “wait and watch mark” indicating to the cook they have an order to call-out to them. The cook/grill operator gives the nod and the order is relayed to them.
Bailey said that a “sophisticated marker system” was developed to help the cook remember what to prepare.
With a platter, plate and several condiment packages, he demonstrated the concept. To indicate an order of two eggs over easy with wheat toast, the cook places the jelly packet, for example, in a certain position on the platter. A different position or a different condiment indicates a different order that the cook has memorized.
“Being a cook or waitress is very demanding,” Bailey said. And, being a manager isn’t any easier, either. Bailey also manages family members “on both sides of the counter” he explained. Three of the salespeople include a mother and two daughters.
“Waffle House has been good to me,” Bailey concluded, “the pay is decent with good benefits.”
And, he enjoys the local hang-out where he serves lawyers, police, teachers, mechanics and everyone in between, he explained.