VALDOSTA – If you have visited Fazoli’s on St. Augustine Road anytime this year did you happen to run into a girl who smiled ear-to-ear and made you wonder if you knew her? It was probably Kirsten Lott, 22, an employee with a never-meets-a-stranger, get-it-done-with-a-smile work ethic, and a spirit that knows no bounds. You meet her, you like her.
Her boss, Fazoli’s General Manager Chris Parker, knew she was a keeper as soon as he met her. She gave him a resume, and what he saw told him plenty. At 21, Kirsten had never had a job. But the volunteer work – lots of it – got her hired on January 15, 2018 – a date she remembers like it’s her birthday.
Parker entered her into the Fazoli’s All-American Team competition and she was selected, representing the franchise’s “best of the best”. She received a letter from Fazoli’s President/CEO, a Certificate of Achievement, $250, a special uniform T-shirt, recognition within the company and some other cool swag. Kirsten is now one of four on this team, and is eligible to be a candidate for the Annual National All-American Team. If she is selected she’ll receive a check for $1000 and an all expense paid trip to the National Brand Conference including recognition at the President’s Award Dinner.
Parker sent in a glowing “Nomination Review,” which enumerates all her personal actions and accomplishments, including her music and art talents and achievements. And most endearing was the ten things Parker sees in his young employee that make her such an eligible candidate, beginning with, “She has received compliments from guests on a regular basis, both in store and on review sites,” and continuing with, “She makes every team member happy to be at work,” “Never once forgot any part of uniform,” “Takes shifts if others are sick,” “Guests come back because of her,” and ending it with, “She has been employee of the month two times in the last several months.”
She attended Stone High School in Wiggins, Mississippi, graduating in 2014 with lots of memories and good deeds. She was a section leader in band, playing flute and piccolo, and loved marching band. Art was a real passion, and along with her art teacher she started Stone High Art Club. She loves using colored pencils, watercolors, oils, ink. Kirsten has a knack, and an eye, and a heart, for it all. “I’ve already had about 20 commissions for my artwork,” she said, recalling her first – how someone saw her drawing and said they’d pay her $2 to draw a cartoon version of them. Her little cottage industry grew.
“It was a really nice kick start,” she said. “We had dull walls at our school and I suggested murals, so we got permission and now there are quotes and murals.” Leaving that bit of her artistic legacy behind will mean so much to her going forward.
She attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and studied music for two years, then came to Valdosta State University. She was discovering that music wasn’t inspiring her as much as art, so she’s taken some time off, recently got her driver’s license for the first time, and hopes to move up the Fazoli’s ladder. “I actually want to be a manager,” she said, adding, “You have to work up to it. I started working in the dining room, then the cash register, then the drive-thru. Right now I’m training to be a trainer.”
And that’s just peachy for Kirsten.
“I’ve always been a hard worker,” Kirsten reflected. “I look around and make sure everything’s okay. I look to the guests and if they’re not happy I like to make them happy, just like other employees.”
On slow days, like Halloween recently, Kirsten decided to do some “deep cleaning.” “The way I look at it, I always try to set an example,” she said, “People might tell me, ‘don’t work so hard,’ but, if I don’t do it…who’s going to?”
Anyone who has ever been a manager and dealt with employees are probably all thinking the same thing Chris Parker did.
“Kirsten is an outstanding team member,” Parker said. “I have been running restaurants for almost 20 years and she is without a doubt one of the best team members I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. Kirsten never lets guests walk in without saying welcome. She is constantly complimenting guests, even uses her artistic skills at times to draw something for the kids. She is a model Guest Ambassador. Never missing a bread stick run, asking guests if they need anything, at times even filling their drinks for them.”
Parker cited her “infectious attitude, and the fact she “never stops smiling” and that “she really loves coming to work” as reasons why she should be selected.
Parker included a story in his narrative to the All-American Team reviewers, “She is always helping out other team members, never cuts corners. It’s also important to note that while she is in her early 20s this is her first job. Not because her family has money. Not because she didn’t want to. But because she from an early age was diagnosed with a form of epilepsy which kept her from working. About a year ago she was given the great news that she is cured from it. So as a result she was given the all-clear to work. I can go on and on about Kirsten. But at the end of the day she causes guests to come back. It’s because of her that you and I have a job. That’s what this award is all about – team members that go above and beyond. To quote the great Buzz Lightyear, Kirsten goes to ‘infinity and beyond’.”