By Van Ingram, Golden Corral Vice President of Franchise Development
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Restaurant Finance Development Conference in Las Vegas with our Senior Vice President of Franchising, Irwin Roberts. Following the second day of the conference, Irwin suggested we visit the nearby Golden Corral in Henderson, NV to attend our annual Military Appreciation Night. As someone who is new to the Golden Corral family, what I witnessed at the restaurant that night was both impressive and heartwarming, to say the least.
When Irwin and I arrived at the restaurant during the early evening, the dining room was packed and a line of about 50 people were outside eagerly waiting to come in. Luckily, the line moved quickly and the mood of everyone there that night was cheerful and festive. It was a sentiment shared by all, from the veterans enjoying a free meal as a thank you for their service, to friends and family with them to each of our team members serving all our guests. The local DAV parked two military Humvees outside the restaurant, and the veterans and their children took photos with the vehicles.
Even though the staff members were slammed on the busiest night of the year, you could tell by the looks on their faces that they were truly enjoying the experience. Whether it was through a kind smile or a spoken word of thanks, the entire staff was very respectful of the service members in attendance. One of the cashiers I spoke with that night fondly recalled her experience from Military Appreciation Night a year ago and interacting with the many veterans who came to the restaurant.
Wanting to get in the spirit of showing our appreciation (and assisting our overworked staff), Irwin and I immediately donned aprons and asked how we could help. Assigned to our new “jobs”, Irwin worked as a busboy and I went around the restaurant and cleaned the floors with a broom and dustpan. Although I’m sure we operated much slower than the regular employees, they were gracious and thanked us for the assistance. Seeing us cleaning in our dress shirts, slacks and loafers, the guests playfully gave us both a hard time about our attire. Our assistance and the comments we received were all part of the fun and comradery of the evening.
My biggest takeaways from the night were the sense of appreciation the veterans received for their service and how much our staff was engaged with the guests. I think it is important for all employees from the corporate office to get out and work in the stores. This is required of all Golden Corral employees and it is an important event for our company. As a franchisor, we need to be in the trenches with our franchisees, serving customers and interacting with staff members.
For the past 16 years, Golden Corral has been proud to thank our current and former service members on Military Appreciation Night. Over that time, we have served more than 5.5 million complimentary meals and worked with the DAV to raise more than $14 million dollars in guest contributions to support community-based service initiatives for veterans.
After playing a small part in Military Appreciation Night for the first time this year, I found the event extremely gratifying.