A hero of the people

 

“Hey Antoine, can you help me over here real quick.” A young woman, with a piercing above her lip that she has removed specifically for her job, peers from behind the cashier stand and yells toward the kitchen. 

 

Ever so smoothly, a young African-American man appears at her side and helps her modify the customer’s order on the computer.

“So no onions, no broccoli, and brown rice? Got it.” With a few gentle touches on the computer screen, the customer’s order has been entered.

Wright at the cashier stand

Wright at the cashier stand

 

“Is this all that you’re gonna be getting tonight Sharon?” The young man initiates a 10 minute conversation with the middle-aged customer who just ordered something from the Stir Fry Bar. 

At 34 years old, Manager of Red Bowl Asian Bistro Antoine Wright has a lot going for him. So far, his life has taken him through a variety of jobs-from working for the Department of Defense to owning a comedy club, Joe Franklin, in Massachusetts. Now he finds himself manager of an up-and-coming Asian restaurant in Burlington, NC. 

All the jobs Wright has had over the past decade and half have one thing in common: people. He knows people, a skill few can say they posses. He doesn’t know people on a contact or need-to-know basis, but he truly understand people. He knows how to interact with them. Wright can have a genuine conversation with any one he meets, and more than half the time he will remember names. 

Since the restaurant’s grand opening in August, Wright has had a grand total of six days off. Red Bowl is his life. On his day off it seemed that he was still working. He worked on the restaurant’s web site, which he and a friend created. He worked on plans for his own restaurant he plans to open in a few years. It will be a fusion restaurant, with food from different cuisines.

Red Bowl Asian Bistro

Red Bowl Asian Bistro

 

The only thing outside of work he did that day was to go shopping with his mom. They went to Toys-R-Us for a nephew’s birthday present. 

If he’s not in the kitchen helping servers get their food out, or helping at the hostess stand, Wright works in the dining room. All day and night he circles the room like a hawk, look to see if he can help make a customer satisfied. Most times, he plops himself down at a table and and introduces himself. 

“Hey guys, I’m Antoine. How’s everything going for you tonight?”

A slender, middle-aged man with glasses responds: “Very nice to meet you Antoine. Everything is going fine, the food is delicious.” 

“Well I’m glad to hear it, is this your first time here? What did you all order?” 

“No in fact this is our third time here, I had the Sesame Chicken and my wife here had the Chicken Lo Mein.” 

Wright replies, “sounds like you guys made some good choices, is there anything I can get you right now?” 

The man asks for some more water. Instead of asking the section’s waitress to get it, Wright sees that she is busy and gets it himself. He returns to the smiling man after helping the hostess with another order. 

This has almost become a routine for Wright: he introduces himself, gets to know the customers, makes them laugh, and then moves on to the next table. It’s just how he works. If a staff member does interrupt him, he will help from where he’s standing, or sitting, then get back to his conversation. 

After talking to Wright for about 10 to 15 minutes, customers feel they know the manager on a personal level. Around 5:30 on a Wednesday evening, a male college student sporting an Elon hoodie and an Elon hat comes in looking for Wright. 

“Hey is Antione here?” 

Hostess Missy Boybastun, 17, responds “Yeah, I’ll go get him. He’ll be with you in just a minute.” 

Boybastun thinks Wright is comfortable conversing with any and everyone. “I like how he talks to everyone like he knows them,” said Boybastun. 

It seems both his staff and his customers like the fact that he is easy to talk to. That is why customers come in and refer to him by his first name, and why staff members such as Chelsea Kirby, 16 find ease in talking to him. “He’s easy to talk to. He’s not just a business guy,” commented Kirby. 

It seems that, for the most part, his staff enjoys having Wright as their manager. His skill for dealing with people is extremely noticeable.

Kirby, Boybatsun, and Wright

Left to right: Kirby, Boybatsun, and Wright

 

 

“He’s very much a people person” said Kirby describing Wright. “I think he could get along with anyone. You could put him in front of the meanest person every, and he will make them sweet. He’s just so nice, I think he’s secretly a superhero.”

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