There are all kinds of people who work in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Many do it because of their love of food and entertaining.
However, some, and in particular those frontline employees who serve grub at your favorite takeout joint, are in it because they’re just trying to get by. And many of them have a story to tell if someone will only listen.
Well, that’s exactly what one Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen executive did when she went undercover and met an employee named Josh.
A Young Man Working to Change His Life
In an Undercover Boss clip posted to Dabl, a Popeye’s executive got to know a man named Josh who worked at one of the chicken franchise’s locations. As they served up biscuits and fried chicken together, the executive got to know Josh’s story.
“I’ve dealt with a lot from my past, and that’s why I’m really trying to work hard to get a car so I can continue going to school,” he explained. “I want to go to school for hospitality management.”
According to Josh, he grew up without a home or family. His family had stopped speaking to him because of his sexual preference, so it was just him trying to make a go of things. He didn’t have a car, so he walked an hour to work each way, every day. Sometimes, that meant he had to walk home at midnight or later following a particularly late shift.
“I’ve got strong legs,” he shrugged.
A Stand-up Employee
Throughout the shift, the executive saw just how well Josh interacted with the customers. He brought a smile to many people’s faces with his friendliness and gift of gab. He also had a smile on his face the whole time and mentioned how much he appreciated the job.
When his 30-minute lunch break came, Josh revealed he was hungry. However, rather than grabbing something quick and then resting, Josh had to walk to another restaurant to grab food that he could afford. Apparently, Popeye’s had stopped giving employees a meal discount even when they were working a long shift.
“When Josh mentioned to me that part of the reason he has to go to other restaurants is because he no longer has an employee discount, that was disappointing to hear,” the executive said in a voiceover. “We’ve got to find other ways to manage our costs so that we don’t take away that benefit for employees.”
A Surprising Reveal
Later in the episode, the executive brought Josh in for a little sit-down and revealed her true job title. He was shocked, but not as shocked as he was when he found out what else his boss had to say.
“I had the most fun working with you, that might have been the most fun I ever had at work,” she told him. “You had such a great spirit; you just make everybody smile.”
The executive then revealed how she didn’t like that Josh had to leave the store to grab food because he couldn’t afford to eat at his own place of employment. So she was reinstating the meal discount at his restaurant and all others.
But that was just the beginning. The executive also revealed she would set up a $20,000 scholarship on behalf of Popeye’s so that Josh could go to school and get his hospitality management diploma.
“Are you serious?? Um, I’m speechless. This is the first time in my life that I’ve been speechless,” Josh said.
Still, that didn’t solve the problem of how he would actually get to school. Luckily, the executive had a solution for that, too.
“You also talked to me about the fact that you have to walk to and from work. That’s hard. Especially when it’s late at night,” she said. “As a mom, I’d be worried about you. So we want to give you $10,000 that you can use to buy a car or help pay some of your living expenses or some of both.”
“My mind is going in all kinds of directions. All kinds of directions,” Josh said as his mouth dropped and he fought back tears. “Thank you. That’s the thing I need to say most. Thank you.”
Take the Time to Get To Know Others
Josh’s story reminds us that we never really know what someone else is going through or what their life is like unless we ask.
To customers, Josh was just the smiling server who made their day a little bit brighter when they ordered their chicken. But deep down, he was struggling and needed a hand.
Obviously, not all of us are in the same position as this executive was, where we can give someone else thousands of dollars to change their life. But there are small ways to make a difference in someone else’s life if we know what it is they need. The only way to do that is to practice active listening and then to open your heart.
Maybe someone you know could use a ride, a break, a warm meal, or a hand purchasing some books. The important thing is that we all stop and take a second to get to know the people we interact with in life and to look out for each other. After all, that’s what community is all about.
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