Thursday, January 26, 2017

Mulvane Pizza Hut....A Second Chance for a First Time Manager

I am all about my community and whenever I can help, I try to. In a small town, your businesses are crucial and I try hard to promote our businesses and remind people of how important they are to us. I am going to start a new series that will be posted on our local pages that will highlight our small town and the businesses that are helping it to grow and I will throw in a little business love.....whenever I can. So here it goes........

Do you know Billy Carroll? If you don’t, then maybe you should.

Billy is the manager of the Mulvane Pizza Hut. I got to know him back in July when I was having a garage sale and a friend and I were craving pizza. We decided to try out the local PH “again” as it had been a long while since either of us had been there.

To be honest, I wasn’t very excited as I had been there about 18 months prior and I was not only disappointed in the place but I also left angry. I had gone in there for the lunch buffet. There were maybe three customers in there at the time. There were two kinds of pizza on the buffet and it was obvious they had been sitting there for a while as they were cold and dry looking. The salad bar was anything but fresh as the lettuce was wilted and the cottage cheese smelled very suspicious. The one waitress that was working was behind the counter on her cell phone the entire time I was there and I never got the drink I ordered. When I went up to pay for what was edible of my lunch, I asked to speak to the manager who the girl told me was not there. I went home, waited a while and called PH asking once again for the manager. She had apparently returned and when I reported my lunch experience, she basically told me that I was a liar and that my business was not necessary to her. Their delivery service was also on the same par. It was simply awful. So you can imagine that my craving for pizza that July day was pretty powerful to even consider going to PH and trying the buffet again. I can honestly say though, it was one of the best decisions I have made in a while.

Going in that day, the difference was night and day. The place was spotless. The wait staff was friendly and attentive (didn’t see one cell phone), our drinks were brought out promptly and the buffet was fresh and had many varieties of hot pizza to choose from. The salad bar reminded me of days gone by when the PH buffet was one of the best lunch venues in town. I was pleasantly surprised as was my friend.

It was this day that I got to meet Billy Carroll. He was the new General Manager and had only been in charge just a few months. He came out to our table and checked on us making sure we were well served and happy with our lunches. We were ecstatic and told him so. On talking to him, you hear a wonderful southern drawl in his voice as his answers were always enhanced with “Yes ma’am” and “Thank you ma’am.” He was professional, charming and very down to earth. In other words, his management skills far surpassed my last manager experience in the place.

After talking to him that day, I decided that the Mulvane Pizza Hut needed a little love. I knew just from town talk, that many in our community had quit going to PH because of similar past experiences to mine. What used to be the place for teachers, business people and families at the noon hour had become a shell of its former self because of poor service and a lack of desire to put the work in to making it a successful and speedy lunch time choice. I decided to learn more about Billy and the PH of today.

Billy graduated high school in 2008 and decided to make the move from his home state of Alabama to the Wichita area. While he worked several different places, over time PH became a job he knew well and stuck with. Working between the Rose Hill PH and Mulvane, Billy went from cook to shift manager and then finally, general manager. By starting basically from the ground up, he learned the business inside out and knew what made a good employee as well as what made the customers happy. As GM, he began applying the skills he learned.

Billy was very honest about his first three months as GM of PH. “They were awful! Plain and simple.” He spent his time trying to fix what was broken at the restaurant and trying to learn what Mulvane customers were looking for in their PH. In all fairness though, he was fighting an uphill battle within the community as he had inherited a wait staff and bad business practices from past managers. He had to start fresh and give Mulvane a reason to come back and give PH a second chance under his new management. How was he doing this? By insisting on good service and an ever present smile from his wait staff, a fully stocked and fresh noon-time buffet and if a mistake happens (as they often do dealing with humans and all) a prompt and courteous resolution to their problem. Sometimes this means him calling the customer personally and letting them know he knows of the problem and he is fixing it.

Billy’s managerial skills seem to be working, because when I went in there the other day to talk to him, the lunch hour was going strong. As he talked to me about his love for his job and his affection for his customers, he pointed to several in the restaurant and told me, “I know my customers. That guy in the white hat, he gets Dr. Pepper no ice and the salad bar. His wife, tea with lemon and also the salad bar. These people are my customers and I know their orders. I work to give them the best.” All I could think was “WOW!”

So I asked Billy, if he felt that PH was now on the right track and what he would like to see in the future. His reply, “I have a huge mountain to climb to gain back the communities confidence in PH and I don’t feel that I am even half way there yet.” It’s true. Mulvane is like any place else, especially when there is an ever growing number of choices for people to eat. If a person gets burned enough times at a restaurant, they will take their business and hard earned money elsewhere. Getting that business back, even under new management can be a tricky proposition.

As for the future of the Mulvane Pizza Hut, Billy’s ideas and enthusiasm for the possibilities were refreshing. He says he plans to continue building staff. It is a bit of a tightrope as he is also trying to rebuild his customer base. As people are hearing word of mouth that the PH under his management is a head and shoulders above the past and his numbers are steadily growing, there is still that up and down business thing where one day they are packed at the lunch hour and the next they may have only half that number, so keeping the right amount of staff right now is tricky. It is getting better though. PH currently has four delivery drivers, two cooks, two shift managers, three servers and Billy. As business increases, these numbers will change.

He is also hoping down the line to get more use out of his conference room. It is a great place to have a noon time meeting with the buffet for lunch. Quick, easy and efficient. They have also had clubs such as a card club who use the room and enjoy a game of cards and the buffet. It would also be great for a special events or parties. It is a great space that because of past experiences is getting overlooked by the community.

Billy also pointed out that during the lunch hour teachers get a 10% discount when they eat there and military always gets a 15% discount. “It’s all about serving the community.”

Down the line, he hopes to institute a possible 2pm-4pm happy hour where you get a drink and a slice of pizza. He also has a couple of other exciting ventures that he would like to keep under his hat pending corporate approval, but when approved will be great for Mulvane and for business.

The bottom line is, the Mulvane Pizza Hut has been a long time staple in our community. Yes, it has gone through some damaging times, but Billy Carroll is working daily to bring it back to what it used to be……a great place to have a quick and delicious lunch at the buffet, an evening sit down dinner with the family or a convenient way to have hot and delicious pizza delivered to your door.

Please though, don’t take my word for this. Go in there, introduce yourself to this hardworking young man (Billy Carroll) and give our PH another chance. I think, like me……you will be very glad you did!

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