September 20, 2012 |

Handling Power Outages

By Jeremy White

Josh Keown

It was a Friday night in late August, and an unexpected thunderstorm came and went rather suddenly. The damage was modest, but it knocked out power to much of the area in which I live. It was dinner time and my hungry toddler, like most little ones, wanted pizza. Naturally, I was happy to oblige.

There’s a busy pizzeria located next to a high school and a high-traffic intersection not far from my house, so I decided to call for delivery. Thankfully, the shop did have power. I knew it would be swamped due to the weather. Couple that with the typical Friday night rush and you’ll understand why the girl on the other end of the line said she wouldn’t be able to quote me a delivery time. She honestly had no way of knowing when my order could arrive.

My interest was piqued. I had to see for myself just how busy the place was. So I told her to change my order to carryout. She sounded relieved and told me my food would be ready in 25 minutes. Twenty minutes later, I walked through the front door. The dining room (which seats about 65) was half-full, but the small lobby near the takeout counter was overflowing. Including me, 14 people packed into the waiting area. Several others stood outside on the sidewalk. As I waited for my order, more people kept coming. Before long, the line out the door was nearly into the street, which is a good distance from the pizzeria.

My order, by the way, took almost exactly an hour — 35 minutes longer than the time I was quoted. Naturally, many of those waiting alongside me grumbled about their waits. I heard comments ranging from, “I’ve been here an hour now, this is ridiculous,” to, “The least they could do is give us some free appetizers or something.”

Of course, these people have no idea what it’s like to operate a pizzeria. Being inside the industry myself, I had a different perspective. I watched intently and found nothing to complain about. The girl taking calls was polite and efficient, even when the person on the other end of the line clearly had no idea what they wanted and asked her to repeat the same specials numerous times. The servers dutifully moved to the back of the house to fold boxes and stock the cooler with two-liter bottles of Pepsi (the pizzeria was giving them away with a large specialty pizza on this night). The guy tending the oven and cutting the pizzas was moving with speed and precision. In short, I saw no one slouching and no one complaining about having to do things that didn’t fit into their job description. They were working as fast as possible, and doing a fine job of it.

Unfortunately, I was the only customer who noticed. Before I left, I wanted to pull the manager (whom I’ve never met) aside and tell him what a good job his staff was doing. But, as you can imagine, he was far too busy. So I simply left to enjoy my hot pizza without saying a word.

Such is the life in this business. That crew heard plenty of belly-aching all night, but the one person who respected what they were doing kept quiet. I think I’ll send the manager this commentary. His staff deserves to know someone noticed their hard work and appreciates it.