It’s loud and crazy in a restaurant kitchen. People are moving quickly, orders are coming in and food is going out. Certain doors have to be labeled in and out so crew members don’t collide. Systems have to be implemented to make sure quality standards are kept. However, even with the best intentions, orders and directions, or responses can get lost in the fast pace noise and chaos. In our restaurants one of the habits we have implemented is loudly voicing the word, “HEARD” when an order has been heard and acknowledged. For example, if a customer wanted a second bowl of soup that they forgot to order initially, the crew member would lean into the kitchen and say, “I need a bowl of corn & crab chowder on the fly.” On the fly would mean quickly and not coming through the normal channels so bump it up in the line up. The crew member on the line that was handling the soups would hear the order request and would acknowledge it by yelling, “HEARD.” Another example would be if a pizza didn’t come out of the oven just as the customer had ordered, the crew member would yell, “I need a Q Pizza on the fly please.” The crew members on pizza – both the prep and oven crew would all yell, “Heard” together to acknowledge that they all know a pizza is coming through the line out of order. It’s just one way we have found to ensure a little bit of order into the chaos. Over the years, it has become quite a part of our culture. Sometimes it even seems like an inside joke. If Matt and I make a comment to each other that we heartily agree with, sometimes we would respond with a resounding, “HEARD!” One of the most famous people to use “HEARD” in his everyday life and conversation was Tom Cox.
At the end of June, Tom passed away from a very sudden massive stroke. He was 58 and otherwise in good health. It has shaken us all and rocked our restaurant family to the core. Tom was our Director of Operations for all of our restaurants in Alabama and Georgia. But he was more than that, Tom was a lifelong friend, really he was more like family. He was a co-worker, and a bright spot in our lives. He began working for our family business when he was 17 and after moving up very rapidly – because he was awesome – moved on to some other adventures and opportunities, but came back to our companies almost 10 years ago. My husband has known him his whole life. Tom would often give Matt rides from our hometown to Matt’s grandmother’s town. Tom would talk about how Matt would ride on the arm rest in the car – keep in mind that was back before super strict car seat laws.
Tom was an incredible manager of people. He had a way of teaching, correcting, and criticizing that always made you feel better about yourself. He made you feel valued and not in a fake flattery kind of way, but a genuine meaningful way. He always went above and beyond what was expected of him in life or in business. If Tom told you he was handling it, you knew that he would and it would be done almost better than you could have imagined it. He was just like that. He was tall and slender with thinning auburn hair and always sported a mustache. He would never be caught with wrinkled clothes and could rock a sweater vest and gold chain better than anyone I know. He smelled of a rich cologne and altoids. He would start every story with, “Listen….” or “Get this….” He never failed to tell me what he was planning on cooking when he got home or what last night’s seasoning turned out like. He loved his family and would never stop telling you about his children and his grandchildren. He remembered names, faces, and details. That’s why he was so beloved by friends, family, co-workers, and even customers that came to eat at the restaurants.
Tom and all of our Managers in March 2018 (Minus one – Tony)
It almost doesn’t seem real. One day he was here, the next day he was gone. The last time we spoke, I had asked him if he could handle sending some flowers to a business associate of our restaurants who had just gotten out of surgery. He answered through text message with a “Heard!” He was my friend and I miss him very much. I always believed that Tom knew the Lord because we would often reference Him or he would agree with me when I would be vocal about my beliefs or my thoughts. But the truth is that I never asked him if he had a relationship with the Lord. I guess I just took it for granted because we were so close and I had known him forever, but the fact remains…I NEVER ASKED. After he passed away, we were all heartbroken, but I had a deeper pain because I was so extremely regretful that I had never broached that subject with him. I just cried to the Lord and asked for forgiveness and prayed that what I believed about Tom was true. At his memorial service, one of his good friends got up to speak. He talked about how he and Tom discussed a lot of things and how one day he had asked him, “Tell me about you and Jesus.” He said that Tom proceeded to talk with confidence about his relationship with the Lord. The friend went on to say how he was looking through Tom’s Bible after he passed away and how he had marked it all up and written things in the margin. I was so relieved and so thankful that someone else had been diligent to ask when I had not.
Life is but a vapor. It’s busy and fast paced and chaotic at times. Little things can often get overlooked. Take the time to tell those you love how much you love them. Make sure they hear you. Ask them the questions you want to ask them and don’t just assume anything Don’t hold back or waste valuable time on petty insignificant things or disagreements. Don’t let pride or comfortableness, or time, or busyness keep you from loving those in your life well. This is a lesson I have definitely learned first hand. One I’ll never forget. One I am so thankful that Tom taught me. Heard, Tom. It was definitely HEARD.