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ON THE ROAD: PREGNANT, HUNGRY & EMPLOYEE EMPOWERMENT

Over the past 10 days, I’ve traveled more than 3,000 miles up and down the East Coast, much of this with my wife riding shotgun.

Because we’re expecting our first child in about three months, her backseat-driving baby bump caused minor detours and major pit stops. The breakneck, hyper-speed “how-fast-can-we-get-there” mentality was traded in for a refreshing go-with-the-flow attitude – and for good reason.

And as we stopped and stopped again at truck stops, state welcome centers and not-so-scenic overlooks dotted from Hotlanta to New England, I noticed something that had always been in front of me: America’s hourly workforce. Each day at Snagajob, my focus is on the nation’s 70 million hourly workers and the employers looking after them. And while I always strive to keep them top of mind in more than a transactional sense when I’m off the clock, it’s sometimes tough to do.

But during the past two weeks, I noticed. At a Boston Market in Newark, Del., we were the only customers who decided to do lunch at 11 a.m. (Don’t knock mashers and gravy before noon). We were treated like royal wedding guests – the special ones, not the ones with the rusty folding metal seats off camera. Our food was brought out, our table was cleared and we were engaged like real people, not temporary customers just passing through. Heck, I left a tip, a rarity at a quick-service spot.

Meanwhile, up in the Berkshires in Great Barrington, Mass., we took in a late lunch at a Lebanese joint named Naji’s. The wait for the fresh and tasty fare was far from long, especially because we came during the odd hour of 3 p.m., when the shift usually changes. But the owner gave our party delicious hummus and tzatziki on the house to hold us over. At the end of the meal, he came out to apologize for the poor service – all tongue and cheek – as his daughter had waited on our table. As we left an empty restaurant, we tipped a hefty 30 percent for the best meal we had all trip. (When I later looked at TripAdvisor, I wasn’t surprised to see that the unpretentious stop was not surprisingly rated No. 1 among Great Barrington’s 43 restaurants.)

As I stewed over our many mobile meals, our trips to Boston Market and Naji’s stood out for a reason other than providing sweet cheap eats. All the employees were empowered to serve their darndest. Maybe they were motivated by a best-in-class workplace culture or maybe it’s because they’re doing what they truly love. Sure, if your father owns the restaurant you’re working in, there is extra incentive to avoid an awkward “talking to.” But regardless of pay or pedigree, if you’re going above and beyond for pregnant, hungry and road-weary travelers, your employer has likely perfected that special sauce – and not the kind in the brown squeeze bottle.

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Mike Ward is the managing editor for Snagajob. When he's not writing and editing content to support America's hourly workers and employers, he reviews movies, roots for losing sports teams and hangs out with his family and friends in the River City.

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