Chef Works will be spotlighting someone in waitstaff each month through November as part of our “Five-Star Service” blog feature. In December, we’ll ask our blog’s readership to vote who has the “best story.” We’ll dress the winning restaurant with Chef Works gear!
Archie Ford doesn’t want the story to be about him. He’d rather talk about his wife, Carolyn, who passed away in March of 2017 after 32 years of marriage. He’d rather talk about the customers at Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue in Broken Arrow, Okla., where the 61-year-old Ford has held several positions for the last seven years.
Because it’s his wife – and those same customers who showered him with love and support – who have helped shape him.
“Once she passed, my whole perspective on life changed,” Ford said. “My job now is to treat people right, love as many people as I can and try to make a difference. You know how I make a difference? By mentioning my wife every chance I get and telling people what I had for 32 years. I’m the man I am today because of her.”
Ford’s job, at its most basic elements, is to bus tables. But that’s merely a fraction of what he does. And his role with the restaurant is anything but basic.
“I started out working the front line,” Ford explained. “Then I was a dishwasher and then a pit master. None of that is what I really wanted to do. Now I’m an Oklahoma Joe’s Ambassador. I meet, I greet, I pray with customers. They give me free rein to represent the company and they trust me. I treat this place like I own it. And people think I’m the owner. Basically, I do whatever I can to make this place successful.”
The father of four took a circuitous route to Oklahoma Joe’s. He’d worked in restaurants before. He’d also been in management roles, in retail and even spent time as a social worker. He’s seen enough in life that when he passes on his sage-like wisdom, people listen. “I’m very comfortable with Archie” as he puts it.
“He’s our in-house guidance counselor,” said Breckyn Davidson-Hudelson, marketing and communications director for Oklahoma Joe’s. “He’s the Yoda to our ‘barbecue Force’ and the Gandalf to our ‘Fellowship of BBQ.’ He shows up every day in a tie and slacks – even though technically his uniform is a T-shirt and jeans. He’s not just bussing tables. He’s tending to the lives of our customers.”
Case in point: Ford lives less than a mile from the restaurant. So when a customer came in and was disappointed to see Ford had the day off, she specifically requested he come in to dine with her. Of course, 20 minutes later Ford was right there.
“I would not have made it without the customers who came in here and prayed for me and gave me finances and cards when my wife moved on,” Ford said. “It was the customers, hands down. The people who come in here are the best. I know so many of them name by name. They are friends, not just customers.”
Ford will turn 62 on March 8. Three days later will be the one-year anniversary of his wife’s passing.
“She was kind enough to wait until after my birthday,” Ford said with nostalgia cracking through his voice. “I see her every day in the people I work with and the customers I serve.”