Serving Pizzas, Serving Communities

Since the neighborhood restaurant is where Pizza Hut got its start, it only makes sense that for this Pizza People Profile we turn the spotlight to one of our Restaurant General Managers, a woman who is so connected to her team and committed to service to her community that customers call her by name and her crew is affectionately known as “Team Willy.”

Shannon Barman, the undisputed leader and captain of the team, first came to our attention when we received numerous emails and actual letters of praise, not only from her supervisors, but from members of the community in the small town of Williamsburg, Kentucky. These community members included not only customers, but also an Advocate with the Williamsburg Police Department, and even the Mayor himself. No matter who sent the letter, they all conveyed a central message: Shannon and her team at Pizza Hut are a true force for good in the community, offering their time and efforts to bolster a variety of initiatives, including the BOOK IT! platform, the local animal shelter and many different fundraisers hosted right there in the restaurant.

For Shannon, it begins and ends with her team―a dedicated group who call their Pizza Hut home and have proudly nicknamed themselves after their town―whose motto just so happens to be, “Feels like Home.” And that’s exactly how Shannon sees it: “Team Willy is a family!” Shannon insists. “Everyone you hire is a direct reflection of who you are.” That certainly explains why this group of individuals would dress up in costume and drive 12 miles to a school just to put a smile on the faces of the children, or host a bake sale in front of the restaurant to provide extra funds for prizes and gifts. “Everyone here, no matter what their actual job is, is treated the same. We’re always joking around and love treating our customers the same way. They are an extension of our family.”

Family matters to Shannon, as that’s the whole reason she moved back to her hometown of Williamsburg in July of 2012. She had been working as the manager of a restaurant in another city, but found that her son, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s disease, suffered in a school system that did not offer the kind of day-to-day treatment he needed, and his condition regressed. So when the opportunity came to return to Williamsburg and to a school system that offered her son the benefits and one-on-one support he needed, she jumped at it.

Pizza Hut quickly snapped her up, and Shannon was glad to be working with an organization that allowed her to flex her people skills. As the consummate host, the RGM believes the front of the house to be the heart and soul of the restaurant. Treat your customers right, and they’ll take care of you in turn. It’s this belief that motivates Shannon and her team to not only make food they’re proud to serve to the members of their community, but also to give back to that community in any way they can.

“Shannon understands and is willing to show others that you do not have to have a teaching degree to teach, and that you don’t have to have millions to have a philanthropic heart. Williamsburg is lucky to have Shannon Barman. Pizza Hut is even luckier.”

One of the best things about Shannon (most often known as “Mama” by her crew and her customers) is that she actively pursues opportunities to contribute. She first linked up with the administration at Whitley East Elementary while delivering a customer-recovery coupon. As she waited in the principal’s office, she noticed the numerous pictures and framed achievement awards around the children’s reading metrics and test scores. The principal’s obvious pride in his students reminded her of the pride she had for her team. Shannon was impressed with Whitley East, a small school that sits about two miles outside of the city limits. She saw how much they did with their limited resources, and she decided then and there to lend what help and support she could to the students.

For these kids, and for anything the team sets their mind to, Shannon and crew are the definition of “above and beyond.” They’re serious about celebrating the successes of those children who participate in the BOOK IT! program. To recognize those who met their reading goals, this past February some members of Team Willy dressed up as super heroes and princesses to visit and have lunch with the kids. And for those children who had exceeded their goals, the crew handed out special super hero bracelets. For the year-end Field Day in May, the team hosted a Summer Fun extravaganza complete with bounce houses, sno-cones and $700 worth of giveaways―including two tablets―to encourage the kids to read over the summer.

Team Willy’s kindness extends even beyond the BOOK IT! program. Recently, they held a fundraiser for the local animal shelter and helped support a team member’s son suffering from Hirschsprung’s disease. Up next? Shannon wants to do a shoe drive for a nonprofit that provides shoes and clothing to the impoverished.

According to Shannon, her team members are the ones who motivate her to keep going, often coming up with the finishing touches that put an event or volunteer initiative over the top. “You can train for a job; I hire for personality. If you click with the rest of us, you can work here. And you better not mind a nickname because everybody gets one!”

Shannon’s belief in her team is powerful enough to have won her serious business that drives the bottom line. Years ago, she hosted her son’s birthday party at a local water park and noticed that they provided pizza from a local competitor that was not only delivered late, but was of sub-par quality. Shannon took notice of this opportunity and jumped at the chance to speak with the kitchen manager of the water park when they came into her restaurant soon after. When asked point blank what would be the difference between her service and the competitor’s, Shannon simply answered “My team is the difference.” Three years later, they still hold the contract as the provider of pizza for the water park, often making dozens of pizzas at a moment’s notice and delivering them fast to hungry park goers with a smile and a thank you.

For Shannon and Team Willy, helping out where they can is just the right thing to do. As WPD Advocate Angelika Lewis-Bowling put it, “Shannon understands and is willing to show others that you do not have to have a teaching degree to teach, and that you don’t have to have millions to have a philanthropic heart. Williamsburg is lucky to have Shannon Barman. Pizza Hut is even luckier.”

We certainly are.

Thank you to Shannon and Team Willy for bringing the energy, the heart and the compassion that creates amazing results and inspires us all.

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