Exchange Food Court Manager Anne Ottinger knew Soldiers and families at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston were hungry for a taste of normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it wasn’t until the April 22 opening of the new drive-thru Burger King—the post’s first after two years without a drive-thru restaurant—that she saw just how hungry they were.
“Once people realized we were open, we had cars lining up all the way down the parking lot,” Ottinger said. “By 1:30, we’d already made $1,300.”
Located just inside the main gate, the new Burger King was originally scheduled to open last year, but construction was delayed. By the time it was completed, the pandemic was in full swing, and the community’s need for a drive-thru establishment was more urgent than ever.
Ottinger and Burger King Manager Naomi Walker worked quickly, completing all the necessary training, cleaning and scheduling—a process that normally takes about two weeks—just eight days after receiving the installation’s approval to open.
“We weren’t able to spend very much time at home, but we love what we do,” she said. “It feels awesome being able to serve our troops and give them something special during such a stressful time.”
In total, the new restaurant’s first day of business drew 261 vehicles and generated $2,300 in sales, exceeding expectations by $800. To encourage physical distancing during the pandemic, service will continue to be limited to drive-thru and takeout only.
“The opening was a booming success,” said JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Exchange General Manager Eddie Devlin. “Our managers have done such a good job with regard to leadership and training that the entire team has completely bought into the idea of making this store successful, and it definitely shows.”
Ottinger said she gives full credit to her teammates for quickly rising to the challenge of what could have been an overwhelming opening-day rush.
“You have to know how to stay calm and show your team how to do the job,” Ottinger said. “You don’t need to lose your temper. They will learn from mistakes and recover quickly. They are champions at recovering, and the work they put in is world-class.”