If you’ve eaten at Rooster’s in Fondren Corner in the last year or so, you’ve certainly noticed the hardest working employee on staff. When your plate is empty, he’s there with a smile, asking if he can take care of it for you.
That young man is Brandon Smith, a 29 year-old Jackson native who is part of Hudspeth Regional Center’s Supported Employment Program. He’s also Rooster’s “employee of the year.”
“The customers are proud of me,” he beams just before his shift starts. “They saw my picture for getting employee of the year. I take care of the customers.”
That he does. For sixteen hours a week, Tuesday-Friday from 10am-2pm, Smith busses tables, keeps the floors clean and serves as a bright spot for the restaurant’s customer relations. Smith started at Nathan Glenn’s former eatery, Basil’s 904, and was one of only two employees he carried over to Fondren.
Nathan says Smith is on top of it. “The reason we named him employee of the year is that he’s one of the key components of keeping the flow moving at lunchtime,” Nathan explains. “He sees the tables and flips them so we can get more folks seated. Really, he’s kind of our director of the show.”
The Glenn family first began working with the Hudspeth employment program in the mid-80’s when Nathan’s father, Tim, brought on the late Kathy Harris. Nathan has fond memories of her, meeting Harris when he was nine, she working in same spot Smith now serves in, for twenty years. “We were the only family she had,” Nathan says, adding that Smith is “filling her shoes” and is too, a part of the family.
Nathan says his family’s operation is proud to offer an employment opportunity to someone who may not normally get placed. It’s been a boost to their entire operation. “Brandon is at 120% of his abilities at all times,” Nathan explains. “He is more productive than anyone on that clock and everyone knows it. He’s the standard that makes them check themselves and work harder.”
Smith’s favorite thing about working at Rooster’s? “Bussing 1,000 tables on Wednesdays,” he tells, turning to Rooster’s manager Kathy Glenn for confirmation. He then suggests he bussed “96,000 last Wednesday” and Kathy agrees with a pat on the back and a smile: “that’s a lot of tables, Brandon!”
With the 4th of July holiday coming up, Nathan gives Smith an invite to this weekend’s Old House Depot party where he always grills burgers. Smith in turn reminds us to be careful if we’re shooting fireworks before asking, “is this (Old House Depot party) my employee of the year party?” Nathan is quick to assure him his party is coming soon, a trip to a local pool hall to play Smith’s favorite game.
Nathan says a small restaurant family like his is all about community and that having Smith is part of it, a fact he wouldn’t ever want to change.
For Smith, there’s a sense of permanency, a place to belong. “I’m going to be employee of the year next year too, right?” he asks. Nathan, welling with pride assures him: “No doubt about it, Brandon, no doubt.”
See the moment Smith was presented his employee of the year trophy. Video courtesy of Kathy Glenn