Gail Haynie, a Restaurant General Manager in the Great Lakes Region, stopped by Dallas during the madness that was the Pizza Championships to celebrate an achievement of her own: 35 years at Pizza Hut. When we sat down to talk to Gail, we assumed that like most interviews for Hut Life, we’d run out of things to ask about somewhere around the 30 minute mark and let Gail enjoy the rest of her afternoon in peace. An hour later, we were having such a good time getting to know Gail that she almost missed her ride to the airport. We talk a lot about huge hearts here at Pizza Hut, and of all the good people working for us, Gail is one of the good-est. Here are some things we took away from our chat with Gail.
Like many, Pizza Hut started as a part-time job and became a career for Gail.
I started with Pizza Hut because my husband and I bought our first house, and I figured to earn a little extra money I’d get a part-time job. I started as a part-time waitress, and part-time waitressing became managing. That was in Montgomery, Illinois—and from there I was a shift manager, assistant manager, and then I became a manager. I didn’t have any waitressing experience when I first started; I just thought it would be fun. When my husband and I were dating we would go to Pizza Hut and we always had great waitresses with good personalities so it seemed like a fun place to work—why not?
When I became manager, it made a big difference for me. I had another job at the time, and it was the same thing day in and day out. I worked as a clerk and typist at a household loan company at the same time. It was nine-to-five, Monday through Friday, and sure, I had my weekends off and didn’t have to work nights, but it was predictable. You’d go in, open letters, file, answer phones—same thing every day. I was getting bored with it, where Pizza Hut was a different challenge every day you walked through the door. You didn’t know what the day was going to bring you. Was it going to be slow? Was it going to be busy? Was there going to be equipment that was broken? It was a challenge that kept your mind active, kept you busy—your day went by fast because something was always happening.
And, things were VERY different back then.
There were really no computers when I first started. Everything was handwritten. We took the orders down on order pads. We had to price out our own pizzas. We did not have ovens with conveyer belts, we had deck ovens. If you made a mistake on a pizza, it wasn’t as if you could do a remake in 8 minutes, it took more like 20 minutes. In the beginning, we had to manually write down the tickets, and then use the cash register to add all the guest checks up, do the coupons, etc. by hand. Sometimes when we lose power these days we have to revert back to the old system of doing guest checks manually. It’s fine for me but always confuses the kids on our crew!
Pizza Hut has been there for Gail through the worst…
When I have an Area Coach who supports me, and people at Pizza Hut HQ who support what I do, it makes a difference in my job. My team and I have gone through a lot together. When my dad passed away, the support I got was amazing. The team told me, don’t worry about the restaurant, you go be with your family and do what you have to do. They made me feel important and that I mattered. They were there when my mom passed away and then when my first husband passed away. They gave me the time I needed. Pizza Hut could have easily put another manager in my restaurant, but they didn’t replace me.
The memories from my time at Pizza Hut that I will have forever? All the support I got when my husband died. They closed my restaurant for half a day. The employees didn’t lose any pay—the team members who were meant to work still got paid even though the restaurant was closed. It was rough coming back at first. I didn’t want anything to do with the customers because the restaurant was in a small town and I just wasn’t ready to talk to people. My crew really buffered for me. I stayed in the back and answered phones and they handled the customers in the front. I’ll never forget that support.
…but also for the best.
Pizza Hut has been amazing through the toughest times, and it’s what makes this company stand out. To never say, I hate my job and I want to quit, even when you have those frustrating nights—that’s really special. When you have a company that has your back—I’m going to have theirs.
My longest crew member right now has been with me for sixteen or seventeen years. He started out when he was about 18 years old as a delivery driver. He still drives for me and he’s a shift manager. I have another team member who started with me when he was 17 and when he turned 18 he became a driver because he was a horrible cook. I tease him about it today because he’s still with me, and he’s an excellent driver. Since he started with me, I’ve watched him put himself through college and start working as a teacher. He says when I retire, he’ll quit working at Pizza Hut. I have other team members who have started families while working at Pizza Hut, and now their kids work in my restaurant!
I treat my team members the way I want to be treated and the way the Pizza Hut brand treats me. If a team member needs time off, it doesn’t matter if I’m shorthanded. We’ll run shorthanded and I give them the time off they need. How do you tell a kid he can’t go to prom because he has to work? You don’t. You run shorthanded.
When I think about it, I spend more time with my Pizza Hut team than with anyone else. My team is like my kids. I have to say, over the years these kids I work with have helped me with my actual kids. It’s really helpful to hear what’s going on in their lives and minds. It’s made me a better parent to understand their world.