One Sunday morning, I found myself with a rare opportunity to do anything I wanted. So, I decided to pick up a job at Papa John’s pizza via Wonolo.
Yes, I know. I could have gone hiking, watched a movie or hung out with friends. But, I had always wondered what it would be like to work at a quick service restaurant. So, when I saw a Papa John’s job starting at 9:00 AM pop up on my Wonolo app, I decided to accept it and see what it was all about. While getting ready for the job, butterflies started swirling around in my belly as if it were the first day of work. As someone who had been doing office jobs for the past fifteen years, I just didn’t know what to expect.
It turned out to be an amazing experience. Working at Papa John’s is not just about delivering pizza to customers. It’s about the preparation and the care that go into making each pizza before it even gets to a customer. Let me explain.
When I got to the job at 9AM, Ariana, an assistant manager, welcomed me and gave me an overview of the various tasks I was going to help her with. My job started with getting the restaurant ready: sweeping the floor, setting up tables and chairs, cleaning windows and restocking the cooler. Restocking the cooler actually required more thought than just stuffing in new drink bottles. First of all, products in the cooler had to be rotated, meaning new products had to go into the back of the cooler and existing products had to go in the front of the cooler. Otherwise, existing products would eventually expire and become obsolete. In addition, this way, customers would get the coldest drink first. Who thought that the accounting concept of FIFO (first in, first out) would be applicable to restocking coolers!
While I was getting the front of the restaurant ready, Ariana worked on getting the kitchen prepared. She fired up the oven and laid out sanitized prep tools. Then, she brought out perfectly prepared and moist dough from the refrigerator. She explained to me that Papa John’s would never use frozen dough because the company believed in “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” In fact, it didn’t end with just fresh dough. All of the ingredients she used in her pizza were prepared directly at the restaurant. Every single onion, green pepper, mushroom, etc. was peeled and chopped in the kitchen, and I gained a newfound appreciation for the freshness and quality that went into each pizza.
In preparation for the lunch rush, I also got to make pizza boxes that came in varying sizes. Folding the cardboard along the perforated lines to build the pizza box was fun, and I became quite good at it. Then, orders started coming in around 10:15 AM. The first order of the day was two large “Works” pizzas, one of the most popular items on the menu. Ariana started building the pizza – spinning the dough skillfully, spreading the sauce, and laying out pepperoni, Canadian bacon, spicy Italian sausage, onions, green peppers, mushrooms and black olives. The whole process was extremely structured and efficient. Even though everything was handmade, the portion sizes of the ingredients used in the two pizzas and the outcomes were very consistent.
As the first two pizzas were coming out of the oven, Lee, another veteran Papa John’s assistant manager, checked in for his shift. He walked me through the different types of pizza cutters, which were color-coded: one for meat pizza, one for vegetarian pizza, and one for BBQ pizza. He emphasized how critical it was to use the proper pizza cutter. Imagine a vegetarian customer receiving a pizza sliced with a cutter that touched other meat pizzas! I was impressed with the thought that went into the behind-the-scenes operation.
Lee then walked me through how different sizes of pizzas required different numbers of cuts. He showed me how to properly cut a pizza, and also how to put the delivery label on the box clearly so that delivery drivers understood which orders would go to which customers. This was an important step because it minimized errors, especially during busy times. Then, off the pizzas went. With the first set of pizzas, or should I say smiles, delivered to the very first customer of the day, I got to see the lifecycle of the pizza restaurant business in one day.
Lee explained to me that the most important aspect of running a pizza business, like in any other business, is preparation. The better prepared you are, the faster you can deliver higher quality pizzas to more people. Even if there were no orders coming in, it did not mean that you would sit idly – you could prepare ingredients and pizza boxes in advance of orders coming in, or clean the front of the restaurant so that it would provide a welcoming environment when customers walked in.
I thoroughly enjoyed my job at Papa John’s and left the job feeling invigorated and motivated for my regular workweek job. If you’ve never worked at Papa John’s before, I highly recommend that you give it a try. I’m already wondering what job I can try out the next time I have a weekend off!