Here's a nice story that kind of makes some mid-level Waffle House employees — or whoever's in charge of scheduling — look bad.
A Birmingham, Alabama Waffle House burdened with late night customers and just one person on staff managed to survive the shift after several (or at least more than one) customers went from diners to impromptu employees, taking orders and bussing tables in the process. As a singular story it's sort of touching, but it could probably be the future if corporate bigwigs can figure out a way to do it. Then it becomes less adorable.
The unique sight was captured by customer Ethan Crispo, who celebrated it being picked up by
Complex CNN and the New York Times:
Crispo had stopped in for breakfast at the eatery at 12:30 a.m. on November 2. He further states that he did not expect positive things when he noted a single employee on duty, but that his faith in humanity was restored. Give the news industry a few days, he'll be back to normal in no time.
In speaking to Alabama.com, Cripso describes a single employee (Ben) who was tasked with running the restaurant all by himself. The consequences were dire. "I’ve just sat down at my table and it’s becoming clear I’ll be going home with an empty stomach" said Crispo in an email to AL.com.
However, a good Samaritan described as "a man from the bar" who was also a regular at that specific location stepped up to the challenge. As Crispo put it: "From the blue, a man from the bar stands up. Asks Ben for an apron, and begins to work behind the counter. It was a transition so smooth I initially assumed it was a staff member returning to their shift. It wasn’t. It was a kind stranger. A man who answered the call. Bussed tables, did dishes, stacked plates."
When pressed for more details, Crispo relived the moment that Ben came over to took his order. As he recalled:
“The first thing I said to Ben was, ‘Hey, man, before we begin, I’ve just got two questions for you.’ He said, ‘Sure.’ And I said, ‘One, where’s your help?’ And he says, ‘They’re gone.’ And then the next thing was, ‘Who’s that guy? Does he work here?’ ‘No.’ ‘Does he work at any Waffle House?’ ‘Nope.’”
As for Waffle House's side of things, this is not the dystopian future (yet) but rather a scheduling goof. Their Director of PR and External Affairs, Pat Warner, said it was the result of miscommunication to workers scheduled to fill in the second half of a shift.
Citing security footage, he further says patrons washed dishes and bussed tables, while the sole actual employee on duty handled stuff related to food prep.
“We really appreciate their efforts … though we do prefer our associates to be behind the counter,” Warner said. “The key to our concept is, we’re there to serve you, not the other way around.”
In addition to the regular patron working "feverishly" (Crispo's description), a pair of other customers also volunteered their services.
“She’s in heels and a tight dress, she’d been to an event,” Crispo said of a woman who also helped out. “And she’s walking around behind the counter, and I could tell she certainly didn’t come from food service … It was almost comical, here’s this pretty woman in heels and a dress … just trying to help, and the next thing you know she’s stacking cups and running orders and bussing tables.”
“(...) It was the most fascinating thing. It was just one of the most wild instances of really, really cool people just coming together.”
He said the customers were still working when he left the place.
Warner said that a similar thing happened a few years ago after a freak ice storm forced motorists to seek out another Waffle House for refuge. The ice storm also prevented workers from getting to work, so customers helped out there too.
“That’s the great thing we have with our customers, the sense of community,” Warner said of the maybe labor violation(s).
Anyway, Tl;dr, Good job by the customers. Bad job by scheduling people. Hopefully other chains don't follow this lead to get free viral publicity.