Monday, September 07, 2015

What's Your Beef?

Some things I feared when I was working at Arby's: Getting stuck on "maintenance" for the third week in a row. "Maintenance" was a catch-all job that required the employee involved to scrub down the entire back room, a kitchen/walk-in freezer/office combo, and washing all the dishes from the day's beef preparations as well as being on call at a moment's notice to show up at the front counter with a smile on to help any sort of customer rush that might occur. Another thing that we all learned to have great and abiding respect for was the razor sharp circular blade of the meat slicer. It could slice a sponge in two with just a whisper of pressure. My wedding ring covers the scar I carry from the one moment I forgot to respect the blade. The last thing that I truly feared while working at Arby's were the words "tour bus." On semi-frequent occasions, a great diesel-powered machine would roll into our parking lot and disgorge its contents of teen choir members or junior soccer players. Dozens of them. All at once. Into our lobby that had just been cleaned and suddenly that slow time after the lunch rush that was going to be used to catch up on all the prep work and maybe even get an early start on maintenance was gone. We took two to three customers at a time and got them served in two to three minutes, as our roast beef Jedi training had taught us. Until it was over. And then we went scurrying about, trying to catch up to the point where we were when there was no tour bus in our parking lot.
The list I just gave you did not include "having a police officer come into the restaurant." If anything, that would have been a relief. As a matter of fact, having an older brother in law enforcement allowed me to serve my share of officers, on duty an off. If you work fast food long enough, you welcome the periodic appearance of someone with a badge, since it tends to limit the possibility that your store will be robbed during that transaction. There was a story about a manager from the Arby's on the other end of town, run by the same owners, who was working late one night when her crew was held up. Jo Ellen, a legend already in the company because of her dedication to all things roast beef, came out of the back room to witness the beginning of the crime and, legend has it, she talked the guy out of robbing the store and since he had obviously fallen on hard times, maybe he wouldn't mind taking an application with him as he left. Jo Ellen didn't need a cop. Her husband worked in a dynamite factory. She had no fear. The rest of us, however, were happy to have the company in blue.
Which makes me wonder why the drive-thru crew down in Florida would take the chance of offending anyone who might come to their aid. The comment made about "not serving police officers" was "just a joke," according to the beefy powers that be down in Pembroke Pines. The furor set off by such a prank caused the national office to issue the following apology: "We take this isolated matter very seriously as we respect and support police officers in our local communities. As soon as the issue was brought to our attention, our CEO spoke with the Police Chief who expressed his gratitude for our quick action and indicated the case is closed. We will be following up with our team members to be sure that our policy of inclusion is understood and adhered to. Further, we will be following through with disciplinary action up to and including termination of the employees involved, as appropriate." And this reminds me of yet another piece of my Arby's lore. We used to number our punchlines so that we wouldn't get into trouble for saying anything off-color in front of our ravenous public. Instead of saying "that's what she said," we would just sing out, "three." We didn't have a number for "we don't serve police officers." Maybe because it wasn't funny. 

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