Breakfast with an order of love

Published 9:18 pm Saturday, July 17, 2010

“Hi, angel.”

“What can I get for you, sweetheart?”

You might expect such greetings from your best friend’s mother, but this is the greeting every customer gets from Harriet King when you walk into the North Suffolk McDonalds, located on College Drive near Harbour View.

She is know for never missing a customer and going around the counter to give a hug to someone she senses is having a bad day.

“I’ve known her for years,” customer Marcella Allmond said. “I know I’ll always get a smile and a loving word from her, and she makes it a point to come around the counter and give me a hug. She makes you want to come for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

As Allmond turned to leave the restaurant, King called after her, “give your son and husband a hug for me!”

King, a Portsmouth native, has worked as a greeter and cashier at the McDonalds since Oct.10, 2003 — a date she recalls in a split second.

She had tried to apply to be a bus aide on special education buses, but it would take six weeks to process, and King said she needed a job immediately.

“I had been out of work for 11-and-a-half years,” said King, who quit her previous job in food service to come home and take care of her son until he was in middle school. “The only job experience I had was in food service. I came in and told them I wanted a job and would give them 150 percent if they’d just give me a chance.”

Nearly seven years later, King is still living up to her promises.

“I’ve seen people who are doing their job just to get paid,” King said. “That’s not what it’s about for me. I love my job.”

“We pride ourselves on knowing our customers,” swing manager Trinay Douglas said. “Miss Harriett helps us do that. I love having her here because 98 percent of the time she does all the training for new employees. Everyone here does an excellent job, but she always gives 110 percent.”

Each day, she begins her work routine by giving Douglas, her supervisor and “earthly angel,” a hug and will often arrive 25 minutes early to sit at a table near the door and greet people as they come in.

“I love my customers,” King said. “Some of them are like extended family to me. Everybody should feel special, not like they’re just a part of the scenery.”

Even under pressure, with lines to the door and the difficulty of keeping all the orders straight, King keeps her cool.

“She’s awesome, she’s amazing,” McDonald’s manager Steve Howard said. “I’ve been here since February, and I don’t think I can say I’ve ever seen her have a bad day. Even when a customer is irate over something, she’s just as nice as can be.”

King said retirement is far in the future for her, but her dream is for her managers to send her to other McDonalds to teach other employees how to properly great their customers.

“It’s so important,” King said. “It’s my dream to go to other restaurants and show people what it can be like to be more than just a cashier. I tell people that my job isn’t as a cashier, but that I rent the space to show people love.”