Trick question; which is greater, the number of angels that will fit on the head of a pin or the number of restaurants inAddison,Texas? No fair answering if you’ve been toAddison.
Answer, no one knows for sure since there is no agreed upon method for accurately counting angels or the number of restaurants inAddison, new ones open everyday, or so it seems.
Last week as I was finishing up a client visit in Addison, Texas around midday I began to head for the airport and noted that I really wanted to get lunch before I caught my plane. I knew my options would be better if I ate before leaving for DFW. As the saying goes “You can’t swing a dead cat” in Addison without hitting a restaurant.
I took a quick turn through the shopping area closest to my hotel and reviewed my options. I wanted something both fast and fresh. An unassuming sign for Freebirds World Burrito caught my eye. Since it had the same name as one of my favorite rock songs I decided to give it a try. Burritos, quick, made fresh, pretty healthy ingredients and generally at least passable for a quick lunch.
As I walked through the front door I was pleasantly surprised. The décor was eclectic and fun. There was no discernible corporate color palate, this place looked original. The counter set up at Freebirds included a smiling giant in a Hawaiian shirt manning the first station. As I approached he asked if this was my first visit to Freebirds, and I responded, “Yes.” As soon as he heard my response the smiling giant began to explain how things worked at Freebirds. “First you make your choice from one of three options of flour tortilla wrappers, plain, spinach or sun dried tomato; when your wrapper is steamed one of my associates will escort you as you make your selection of fillings.” This conversation was taking place against a background of pleasantly loud rock music and included accompanying singing along from the staff on hand.
As my wrapper finished steaming an “associate” strolled up, “Hi my name is Rod, is this your first time to Freebirds?” I was beginning to think I’d answer this question at every station along the way as I made my choices. Not so. As soon as I had made my first choice I noticed something different, Rod was not passing me or my burrito along to another station, he was staying with me. I also noticed that Rod was wearing a deep rose colored stingy brim straw hat, shorts and wild pattered cotton short sleeve shirt festooned with several different large pin on buttons. As soon as I made my rice selection Rod asked me why I was in the area and then when I mentioned business he wanted to know where I had traveled from. This conversation, simple small talk, continued as we went down the line and finally, just before he passed me off to the cashier he said he wanted to show me the best way to approach the task of eating the burrito and proceeded to give me a demonstration of his technique. Awesome! Rod was actually having a good time waiting on me. We said good bye and before I began to pay my bill the cashier asked if it was my first time to Freebirds! OK, now I was plenty curious. I asked the cashier about the super friendly approach and she proudly stated that it was part of the Freebird mission to make me feel at home. And I did, none of the greetings or questions I received from the staff was the least bit forced and they all seemed authentic in welcoming me to the restaurant.
I proceeded to find a table and began to eat my lunch and as I did I watched as each customer received the same treatment as I had, from a number of different “associates.” And the dress code; it looked like every Freebird employee on duty had gone out of their way to be as original in their dress as possible. How fun!
Being a fan of highly engaged workplaces I had questions. There was no obvious manager in sight so I decided to ask the young lady covered in tattoos, with the nose piercing, who clearing the table closest to me whether there were other Freebird locations in the area. Without hesitating she noted that there were about sixteen in the Dallas area, right around 60 locations in Texas and more in other states. Many new restaurants were going to open in 2013 and by 2014 it was the company’s intention to have 150 locations. This was a front line employee and she knew the overall plan for the business off the top of here head! And…she was excited about it, tattoos, piercing and all. Or, maybe she was the manager!
I admit that I am a sucker for an engaged workforce, especially one you encounter in an otherwise commoditized market. Burrito shops are everywhere these days, you can’t swing a dead…I already did that, sorry! Since my lunch, which was by the way excellent and very reasonably priced, I have made a visit to the Freebird website. Within moments of getting to the site I could see the correspondence between what was posted there about the business, the mission and the approach to attracting engaged employees, and my experience in their Addison store. They were what they said they are. I'll go back and I'll also be looking for the first Freebirds to make its way to Washington.