The same year that the Watergate scandal broke, a young woman named Cheryl Arndts was graduating from high school and considering what job to take. An 18-year old in Ohio, Cheryl had two offers on the table: one to be an administrative assistant, the other, a server position at Pizza Hut.
“I was only 18 at the time, and you know, Pizza Hut was a new restaurant in town. At that time we didn’t have a lot of restaurants around, though my family had worked in the restaurant business—my mom and both my sisters. I wasn’t too concerned about salary at the time, since I was still living at home with my parents. Pizza Hut seemed like the most fun of the options I had. Who knew?”
Who knew that on July 1, Cheryl would be celebrating her 40 year anniversary with Pizza Hut? As an Area Coach in the Midwest Region—based in Dayton, Ohio—Cheryl’s career is remarkable not only in its longevity but in the passion she brings each and every day to making her restaurants the best they can be. Mark Collins, Cheryl’s Region Coach, reflected, “When I think of Cheryl, the words ‘passionate’ and ‘excellence’ come to mind. She really strives to get excellent results from the teams she coaches and truly cares about the customer.”
Cheryl’s held numerous positions throughout her career, and with each step she makes an impression on the team members she mentors and coaches—so much so that even today, team members she coached 20 years ago come up to her to see if she remembers them. After taking that first job as a server, Cheryl was promoted to be a Restaurant General Manager (RGM), then an Area Coach, and then a Market Coach. The region she continues to lead has faced their share of change after the restaurants were sold by the franchise back to the corporate team, then re-franchised, and today are company-owned. Nevertheless, Cheryl has been an anchor for her team members and RGMs throughout the changes.
Amidst this change, Cheryl formed a fast friendship with Darlene Clements; Darlene is now the other Area Coach based out of Dayton, and she’s coming up on her own 35-year anniversary. I spoke to each woman separately, and each had warm things to say about the other, Darlene calling Cheryl “someone I could lean on” and Cheryl saying of Darlene, “she’s my rock.” Darlene met Cheryl when she started as a Restaurant General Manager within the same franchise. When Cheryl got promoted to Area Coach some time later, she picked up coaching duties for Darlene’s restaurant. As Cheryl puts it, “The most difficult time in our friendship was when I was her supervisor, because it meant I had to be her boss. I talked to her about it when I first got the offer, and told her that I would not take the position if it was going to affect our friendship. Our friendship was more important than the position.”
Their friendship aside, Darlene also notes that Cheryl is a “total team player” both while on the clock and off. Darlene tells us that Cheryl would plan events outside the restaurant: “We’d have group outings—nothing fancy, picnics and barbeques, some softball games. We do this job for our people more so than for us. At the end of the day you want to make sure your people are getting taken care of. Both of us have people that have been with us for 25 years, and we consider them a work family.” For Cheryl, watching people grow has been one of the most gratifying parts of her job. She says, “Team members 20 years ago or more still reach out to me. I see pictures of them and their kids—even their grandkids! For them to remember me after that many years means a lot to me. It tells me I’ve made some kind of impact on their life for them to remember me as a boss from some 30 years ago. It’s impossible to remember everyone that I’ve worked with over the years, but it’s flattering to know I made an impression on people.”
Like Mark, Darlene immediately says “passionate” when I ask her what word comes to mind when she thinks of Cheryl. But when I ask Cheryl to sum up her career, she goes with “Quite a ride. I never expected to be here for 40 years. It’s been a good ride, but it’s been quite a ride. Most people don’t stay in one place for 40 years, and vice versa: Pizza Hut is loyal to their employees, treats the team members well with great benefits.” We think Cheryl’s license plate also sums it up nicely: “I RN HUTS.” Thank you Cheryl, for your 40 years of success and passion for running Huts!