This interview was conducted by freelance writer Sarah Durn.
What exactly does it take to keep an award-winning Cleveland restaurant running smoothly? From hostesses to managers to dishwashers, we’re bringing you on a behind the scenes tour of what running a restaurant is really like.
Welcome to another installment of our “Day in the Life” series! Today, we talked with a beloved, longtime staff member at Lindey’s Lakehouse, Bill Harmon. Bill told us what a typical day looks like for him and how he always ends his workday with a visit to his granddaughter (at her insistent request).
A Day in the Life of Bill — Our Much Loved, Longtime Dishwasher
How did you get started working at Lindey’s?
Well, we were planning a family reunion, you know. And, I was looking for a job to save up a little for travel expenses. So, I was looking around, but everyone was turning me down because of the age factor. You know, I’m around retirement age. But, I happened to run across a friend who knew the chef at the time.
And what surprised me about it was that while I was being interviewed, it was like he hired me off the bat. He was telling me when to start and showing me this and that. And believe it or not, that was May of 2016!
I’m still there, you know, because of that atmosphere. Everyone gets along. It’s a real relaxed atmosphere. Sometimes it gets hectic, but we work around that. They always hire dependable people.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I start off going to [Lindey’s] Lakewood and cleaning up there first. I’m by myself. I turn on a little music. They got my kind of mix with a little bit of classic rock. And, I clean up everything before the hostess gets in.
And, then I go down to [Lindey’s in] the Flats and finishing up the day there. And, believe it or not, some mornings I look forward to going.
It’s weird. A person looks forward to going to work, you think, “what’s wrong with him?”
What did you do before you worked at Lindey’s?
Well, before, I was doing concrete work. I waited till my late 40s to start doing it, and worked about 12 years. And, it wore my body down and basically forced me into early retirement.
But, once I retired, I think it only lasted 6 months. So, I went back to the workforce and started looking for something not as strenuous as laying concrete.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned working at the restaurant?
It’s a whole lot more challenging than what I thought it was! You know, you sit back and when you go to the restaurant. But, when you see the front of house and the back of house, and everything it takes just to get that food on the table, it’s a whole lot more complicated than you think.
And, it’s not just about taking an egg and frying it and putting it in front of a person. You know, it’s about the seasoning and the waiters and the manager. And, it’s really a special gift for you to cook something for another person to enjoy.
Favorite piece of advice?
Keep the people happy! Because the main thing is to keep people coming back.
You know, I have a view to the outside, and you see people walk out with a big smile on their faces, and you know those people really enjoyed themselves. It feels good.
Are there any moments that stand out in your memory from working at the restaurant?
You know, everyone around here calls me “Bill” or “Mr. Bill.” But, one day, this hostess said, “Hey Billy!” And, you know, it took me back, because that’s what my mother called me. And, I was a mama’s boy. She was nervous because she thought, “Oh no! He’s going to get offended.”
But, I went up to her and told her one day, “you know, I like it when you call me that because my mother called me that.”
You know to hear someone call you that after years. It was touching.
I’m glad it was a good mistake!
Yah, you know, I like to joke with people. But, I also get down to business. That’s why I like jobs when there can be music in the background and good people to work with. That’s the secret— to have fun while you work.
What kind of music do you like?
Well, I’m strictly R&B and classic rock. In that order. You know, CCR, Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Temptations, Motown. Everything by Motown.
Is there a song you’d recommend?
Well, that’d have to be one of those classic old rock songs I wake myself up to every morning. There’s one by a group called White Snake. It’s called “Here I Go Again.” It’s got a lot of meaning to it.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you get off a shift?
Well, the first thing I gotta do is spend time with my six-year-old [granddaughter].
You know, she told me one day, “Papa, you better come by and see me every day when you get off work.” You know, I spoil all my grandkids. But, I put some extra spoil on her, because she’s the youngest.
What’s your favorite dish at the restaurant?
Ooo weee! There’s so many! You know, but lately, I got hooked on that firecracker shrimp. You know if I really have to choose.
Just a few weeks ago, Pat Granzier and the rest of the management team behind Next Cool Restaurants, teamed up to help Bill out with some transportation for work. Pat told the team how Bill’s car was “falling apart,” according to NCR Founder Rick Doody. And so, the team got together to buy Bill a new car.
“Pat has always said that Bill’s the most important person at the restaurant,” explained Rick over the phone. “In this time of covid, our employees are paramount. Looking after them is always our first decision.”