Smile Politely

Uniforms: Morgan James

Meet Morgan James, Assistant Manager at Monical’s Pizza on Mattis avenue. She’s local, educated, has a positive attitude, and loves what she does. I followed her around her workplace, took photos and asked her questions. Read on to see what she does for customers and her company and find out how she feels about the industry.

Smile Politely: What is your job, position, and length of employment?

Morgan James: I am the First Assistant General Manager at the Monical’s Pizza Champaign branch. I have been with the company since September 2004, the day after I turned 16. So, just under half the time I have been alive on this planet.

SP: What other jobs have you done in the past?

James: Before joining the management team at Monical’s, I worked first as a hostess and later as a server through high school and college [at Monical’s].

When I graduated EIU in 2013, I briefly moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where I worked for the University of North Carolina as a Supervisor of Operations in their dining hall. I was a glorified lunch lady for a bunch of college kids. It was actually quite terrible. The pay wasn’t that great either so I made ends meet by tending bar at another pizza place called Tony Sacco’s.

I also did a stint as a manager at The Original Pancake House here in town. Monical’s always draws me back in. I’m what we call a “lifer” in our company.

SP: Do you have a uniform or something you wear every day to work? What is it?

James: I’ve been through quite a few uniform changes in my years at Monical’s but currently the management team sports plain black polos with our logo on the front left. We are required to wear black slacks, black socks, and black NONSLIP shoes. Good nonslip shoes are a game changer in the industry. Name tags are also a requirement. I personally always wear an apron. I served for years and the convenience of the pockets is something I can’t go without.

SP: What are your duties at work?

James: What aren’t my duties is probably a better question. Solely, management is responsible for scheduling, inventory control, employee hiring, conflict resolution, any vendor orders, and handling concerns and complaints. My management team and I are working managers so throughout the shift, our duty is to be wherever we are needed most. On any given shift, I could be making your pizza, getting you a refill, taking your delivery order, washing your dishes, or cleaning a table for your party. Wherever I need to be is usually where I am.

SP: What are some misconceptions about your job?

James: The biggest misconception people have is that it’s not a real job. Maybe people take managers seriously, but food service employees seem often put down. I have a Bachelor’s degree. I chose this career. I am good at it and I love it! I have employees who have worked for Monical’s longer than I have been alive. They make a great living and are assets to my store. Each employee deserves respect and doesn’t need to be asked why they don’t have a real job.

SP: How long are your shifts? How many hours a week do you work?

James: My shifts vary week to week based on the schedules of my fellow management team members. Monical’s requires a 45 hour work week for any general or assistant manager. Typically, I work one 6-7 hour shift  (considered our “short” day), three 10-11 hour days, and one 8 hour day.

SP: How would you describe the job market for your position in C-U?

James: The job market for restaurant managers is pretty open in C-U. I often see job listings for everything from quick service to finer dining managers. The opportunity is there but every place is different. Many people get in over their heads because a lot of managers in the industry pull way over 40 hours a week. Since the new federal salary requirement is currently on hold, many are on subpar salary, working long hours, and get no overtime. It has been like that for awhile so if anyone is interested in this job market, they need to do their research.

SP: What did you want to be when you grew up?

James: I honestly don’t remember growing up what dream job I had in mind. To be the boss and well, here I am. If I had to choose now what to be when I grow up, I would say a chef, for sure. I want to be on Chopped.

SP: What is the best part of your job? The worst?

James: The best part of my job is my team. We are like a family. We disagree often, get angry with one another, but at the end of the day, we would all do anything for one another. Our guests are also a rewarding part of my job. I’ve seen kids grow up in my dining room, I’ve had to say some hard goodbyes to people who have grown into family, I know orders upon orders off of the top of my head, I’ve been a kid to couples without children, I’ve built some lasting bonds with a lot of our regulars.

The worst part is honestly when I handle a complaint and get completely destroyed by a guest. Being yelled at and belittled is an awful experience. I will always fix our mistake willingly and hate to be torn down over pizza. It is something you have to take with a grain of salt, but it eats at you sometimes.

SP: What do you want everyone to know about your job?

James: I want everyone to know that working for Monical’s is the and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Our company turnover rate is pretty low, so that must say something. I also want everyone to know as a manager, I work with my staff to be better employees constantly. I can’t just fire someone for messing up an order or not being as polite as they should have, which is common suggestion. We are all works in progress.

James has worked at Monical’s for nearly 13 years. You can find her at the Mattis location. 

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