My last assignment at Roy Rogers was as a senior assistant mgr/troubleshooter at the franchise Roy’s in Warrenton, Virginia. Besides having the pleasure of that holiest of rarities in Northern Virginia – going to work on I-66 when everyone was leaving and thus having an relatively empty highway out of Fairfax County – I got to see just how well a franchisee adhered to Marriott/Roy Rogers quality standards.
Of course, during my first week, I tried to sample the milkshake/soft serve machine and was told by one of the hired hands that it didn’t work .
“And why doesn’t it work?” I asked gently, sensing that the question might be construed as an attempt to elicit sensitive information.
“Well, the health inspector told us it was broken,” said hand replied cautiously.
“I see,” I said, already knowing the worst. “Did he happen to leave a note as to why it was broken?”
The lucky employee led me back to the store office, where I discovered the inspection and safety file book for the establishment. Sure enough, the last inspection report included words such as ‘bacteria count,’ ‘odor,’ and ‘final warning.’
I told the employee that it was his lucky day, and gave him some petty cash and a shopping list including stiff-bristle toothbrushes (a running theme with my days at the Double R Bar . . .), a gallon of bleach and three surgical masks.
Upon his return, he, I and another employee unlucky enough to answer ‘not much’ when I asked what he was doing pulled the machine to the back of the kitchen. Amazingly enough, the tool kit for the machine’s maintenance was as it had never been used – well maybe it made perfect sense. I removed the side panels and immediately was forced into a Hobson’s choice: vomit or laugh and vomit.
There was enough curd to supply several varieties of repulsive European cheeses to the next 20 wine tasting parties in Warrenton’s fox-hunting community. I’d only expected cheese for 10 parties.
Suffice it to say we got the machine clean, sanitary and sparkling in about an hour. I surprised myself in my ability to motivate two teenagers to get off their “lazy, filthy asses and don’t ever let something like this happen on my watch again or I’ll run you through the goddamn roast beef slicer on ‘shaved’ setting – you got that?!!!!” Well, it was calmer and not quite as blue, but the sense of murderous intent got across.
One day later, we were serving milkshakes, sundaes and strawberry shortcakes (Stiletto and Sled will remember those . . .).
After that, things went amazingly well given that I demonstrated that I could scrub cream cheese from machinery with the best of them.
Then there was the day of the flaming chicken fryer (another theme in my career at the Double R Bar).
It was after the dinner rush (maybe Neil Young could get another album title out of that), and I’d asked the first employee mentioned earlier in this post to drain, clean and refill the chicken fryer with shortening. The process is relatively simple: you turn off the fryer, screw in a drain spout at the bottom of the fryer, open the spout valve and drain the oil into a filter/pump, spray filtered oil back into the fryer until the solids were drained, turn off the pump, scrub out the fryer, close the valve, disconnect the drain and filter, pack solid shortening back into the fryer, turn on the power until shortening is melted, add shortening to bring it to full, turn off the power and close the lid.
They did pretty well except for one step – the first one about turning off the fryer. Within seconds of draining the fryer, the heating elements managed to ignite the film of oil left after draining. Naturally, smoke drifted throughout the store and the fire alarm went off while I was sweeping the dining room. I ran back and saw employee 1 and his buddy standing and wondering what to do.
I said “DO THIS!” and cut the power and closed the lid. Just then I heard a banging at the back door. I opened the door and was greeted with a firefighter poised to chop a hole in the door with a fire ax. The ax, of course, was aimed pretty much at my sternum.
I turned, looked at number one employee and said, “It’s for you.”