May is the month that Eat’n Park Hospitality Group (ENPHG) has designated as Team Member Appreciation month. (Not that we don’t celebrate our team members at any other time. We just have all our formal celebrations in May.) May is such a wonderful month any way – why not select it as the time to celebrate our wonderful team members?
Since May really is right around the corner, time sure is flying by in 2012, I started thinking about all of the different celebrations we will have. One of these special celebration days is known, formally, as Team Member Appreciation Day. In the past, we’ve closed our corporate office so that the Corporate Support Center (CSC) team can work in the restaurants for a day. Everyone was assigned to a different restaurant and they worked in various departments within the restaurant. This year, we are doing MULTIPLE Team Member Appreciation Days so that more CSC team members can visit multiple restaurants. The more appreciation the better, right!? Nonetheless, Team Member Appreciation Day has been around for a while. I wondered just for how long so I reached out to one of Eat’n Park Restaurants District Managers to find out.
Keith Lester started with Eat’n Park, as a dishwasher in our Monongahela restaurant, in September 1975. He has over 36 years of history with Eat’n Park. Keith’s Mom was an Eat’n Park Car Hop from 1958 -1962. All of his siblings and his three children have worked at Eat’n Park at one time or another and his nephew currently works in Eat’n Park’s IT Department. It’s not unusual for generations of families to work here. We really are just one big family.
I thought he would be the right person to talk to about history and he was. We like to think of Keith as Eat’n Park’s walking history book.
He remembered the first ever Team Member Appreciation Day we celebrated. He happened to be a General Manger at our Uniontown Eat’n Park at the time. The corporate office staff member who was assigned to his restaurant was, none other than, CEO of Eat’n Park, Jim Broadhurst himself. Maybe that‘s why Keith remembers that day oh so clearly. We gave free strawberry pies to all of our team members that year and we hear that Jim helped to make a lot of strawberry pies that day. Keith commented that our guests were very excited about the day because they thought it was great that we were honoring our team members in such a unique way. This was back in 1990. We have had Team Member Appreciation Day every year, ever since. Team Member Appreciation Days have changed a bit over the years, but they just keep getting better and better.
We have other celebrations too. We celebrate all of our (years of) Service Awards, Scholarship Awards and have our Quarter Century Club (25 years of service recognition) dinner all during the month of May.
I asked Keith what he loved most about Eat’n Park. He quickly said the people and the culture. He told me he entered the management training program all those years ago to help build a better future for himself, as well as for our team members and our guests. He wanted to be able to influence positive changes.
Finally, another question I asked him was what advice do you have for a new person starting out? Keith’s words of wisdom were “Always be flexible. Be willing to adapt and change. Your efforts to resist change could be used towards much more important things.”