The Power of Pancakes

Following is an excerpt from Chief Cook & Bottle Washer: The Double D Diner’s Unusual Menu for Success & Happiness at Work! You can buy the book by clicking here!


Chapter 11

Feed Your Cooks & Wait Staff


Over the next week Terry ate a lot of pancakes. Blueberry. Ginger Snap. Butterscotch. Mango-White Chocolate Chip. Pumpkin Ricotta. Did Clyde really have fifty varieties? Would he actually feed Terry all fifty varieties? Was Terry going to gain a hundred pounds as a result of his car turning around that fateful morning just a few weeks prior?

It was raining on Tuesday. It had been raining for two days. It was 5:45 AM when Terry pulled into the parking lot of the Double D Diner. The lot was empty.  Terry chose his usual parking spot rather than picking one that might have kept him a bit drier.

He walked inside and found Clyde eating breakfast with two of his cooks and two of his waitresses. They were laughing and discussing last night’s college basketball game. Quick assessment: these people seem to really like one another.

“Come join us Terry” motioned Clyde. “There’s always one extra seat when we sit down to eat. First come. First serve. Looks like the rain was your gift this morning.”

In the center of the table were two stacks of pancakes. This morning’s choices were peanut butter-raisin and butternut honey. For the next thirty minutes Terry watched in amazement as Clyde and his team laughed, talked, bonded and made decisions together about diner operations. They talked about successes, customer compliments, customer complaints, and Clyde’s pancakes.

Too much peanut butter. Not enough peanut butter. How come you didn’t try any with crunchy peanut butter? Would golden raisins be better than dark raisins? The butternut honey wasn’t a crowd pleaser to the staff.

Terry looked over at the Specials Board and took note of today’s Menu For Success:

feed staff



Clyde noticed Terry was looking at the board. Today’s success tip went a bit deeper. It wasn’t just a line.

“Feed them respect. Extract ideas from them to feed new creations and decisions. Feed them love. That’s my employee engagement plan” Clyde told Terry. “Is that the latest term you folks are using these days?”

“These people make me look good. They make this diner look good. They make my customers feel welcome and appreciated. I owe it to them to make this the best place to not only work, but to be a customer as well. Whenever possible, we spend time together. Around a table. You know about tables, I’m sure you do Terry. Big conference room tables. With egos and lack of decisions. With people who fight to feel important.” Terry smiled and thought about how he recently made a few people feel a bit less important when he suggested a meeting start before their grand entrance.

Clyde went on with his thoughts. “No one at this table is more important than anyone else. Their decisions and ideas matter and I take each person seriously. Remember, I’m a business guy who likes making pancakes. But this group of people, and the ones not working right now, are my creative team, my business advisors, my marketing arm, my customer service department, my new product development inspiration and so much more. They’ve been cooking, plating and serving food way before I arrived. Without these folks I am screwed. I trust them with my life Terry. They are not my staff. They are not my employees. They are my partners. But most importantly, Terry…….They are my family. I value everything they do and say. My real family thanks them too! My real family even gets a bit jealous of this group. So whenever possible, we sit down and break bread together. Or should I say, we break pancakes together. It’s usually to try my new creations and get their thoughts.”

“And you shoulda seen his face when I told him we needed to hold a cremation for his cranberry-pickle potato pancake idea” said DeeDee, one of the waitresses at the table.

A roar from everyone, including Clyde, erupted. “Yeah, not one of my better ideas. They were ruthless in telling me so. Ruthless. But when you take opportunities to spend time with your staff, include them in decisions, listen to their ideas, include their ideas, and then break pancake with them, you know that even the harshest of criticism comes from a place of love, respect and a great customer experience.”

Then Jesse, one of the cooks, shared a story. “One night I didn’t call Batter Boy back into the kitchen when a potato pancake order came in. He was off giving one of his pep-talks to a newbie so I thought I would……well you know…….. be helpful. Clyde walks through the swinging door and sees me mixing pancake batter. I just laughed. Then I saw the sparkle in his eye and boom…….He didn’t push me away. He didn’t yell at me. The guy stepped into high gear, stood alongside me at the griddle and started cooking. He was actually racing to see if he could cook an order before I did. And damn you Clyde, you did! You had those things on the griddle before I could even mix the ingredients.”

Another roar from the team.

Terry’s initial assessment was correct. What a great group of people. They are mutually supportive of one another. They could be a textbook case in teamwork and collaboration at a leading business school. But most importantly, they were keeping one another out of the “rut” that any job can often become.

It was 6:45 AM and the rain had finally let up. People started arriving for breakfast. The staff stood up, each grabbing some of the dirty dishes. Terry stood up and went into his pocket to get some money. “Put your money away” said DeeDee. “Clyde’s buying today. AND he’s tipping me!” DeeDee looked over at Clyde with a big grin. Clyde just smiled and cocked his head to the left a bit.

“Listen to the boss” Clyde told Terry. “Get your butt outta here before I make you do some dishes.”