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No cushy office or holidays for Waffle House execs

DUNWOODY, Ga. - During busy breakfast time, you'll find Waffle House executive Dave Rickell at the grill or bussing tables, but you won't him behind a desk.

"I don't have an office," he said. "We have a corporate office, but I don't have an office there."

Instead, he spends his days in and out of the 400 restaurants he overseas as an Executive Vice President for Operations, just one level below the CEO.

"I think we're very unique. We like our operations people to be in the field every single day. It's pretty hard to manage a restaurant from an office," Rickell said. "I do it all. It's a special part of the culture where we're all in this together."

There's another part of the Waffle House corporate culture that's unique.

No one in this 24-hour restaurant chain gets time off for holidays, from grill operators to top executives, like Rickell.

"You haven't had a holiday off since you started?" asked 11Alive's Jennifer Leslie.

"No ma'am" Rickell said. "Part of the deal with Waffle House is that you sign up for it on the front end. We work all holidays. We work Christmas and New Year's. Christmas is the busiest day of the year."

"We don't feel like it's right to ask your employees and managers to work holidays if the executives aren't," he added.

They also work a lot of weekends, including what they call the big four shifts: Friday and Saturday nights, Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Rickell is a Cornell University graduate, who started in at the bottom of the Waffle House management ladder 15 years ago with one restaurant.

That's how everyone starts.

"Everyone said it was a great management opportunity," Rickell said. "We're a homegrown culture."

The company is always hiring and promoting from within.

"The whole name of the game for us is having enough people to fuel growth," he said.

More than 50 new restaurants are scheduled to open within the next year, all with the same top-down team culture.

Submitted by Jennifer Leslie, 11Alive Reporter

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